While I have my share of Rays friends in my circle of friends and associates, it seems that most of my friends end up being Red Sox or Yankee fans. My own brother is a diehard Red Sox fan going back to Roger Clemens and two of my best friends are life-long Red Sox fans as well. Believe me, I thoroughly enjoyed giving all of them crap once the Rays won the American League last year and they’ve all been surprisingly nice to me this year. Yet, it seems that most of my baseball associates are all Yankee fans. My pals Mike Siano and Cory Schwartz at mlb.com are both Yankee fans as is 3/4ths of the staff that helped run RotoJunkie before it became part of the Fanball network. Those guys – Bob Kohm, Brian Fleischer, and John Hoyos – all pull for the Bronx Bombers although Bob is the most boisterous of the trio. While Bob is never at a loss for the spoken word, John is never at a loss for the written word. He sent me an email this morning penning his thoughts about the Yankees in the post-season and I thought I’d share them with you all.
I believe the New York Yankees will win the World Series this year.
Put aside the payroll differentials and everything else that is arguably wrong with baseball. At this point, I don’t see how any other team is going to take out the Yankees this post-season. And I say “at this point” because I really felt the Red Sox and the Cardinals had the starting pitching to challenge the Yankees this year. And while both still have a chance to advance, both are down 0-2. The Cards are even further in the hole, down 4-0 in the 6th in game three right now. (Vicente Padilla? Really?)
Admittedly, the Yankees might not be up 2-0 on the Twins were it not for Phil Cuzzi’s errant 11th inning foul call down the left field line, but we’ll never know for sure. Whether you believe the Twins would have scored or not had Mauer’s shot been called fair, the fact remains that they still had the bases loaded, nobody out in the top of the 11th and didn’t score. Teams that win in the playoffs don’t squander that opportunity. It’s very likely that will cost the Twins the series, ending an incredible run that should not be forgotten. The Twins should be lauded for the tear they went on to win the Central, taking advantage of a Tiger team that should really be ashamed of themselves. The Yankees need to win one of the next three games to advance. Its hard to imagine that they wont do that.
The Angels have done a great job of shutting down the Red Sox offense for two games. The Red Sox have the ability to come back from this deficit, but its still unlikely. The Red Sox do have a little history on their side, not only against the Angels, but against other clubs in the playoffs as well. They’ve come back from an 0-2 ALDS hole twice before – in 1999 against the Indians and in 2003 against the A’s. I think they had a pretty good comeback in a series in 2004, but my memory’s a little shaky. I’ll have to look that one up. However, the Angels are riding the wave of emotion, playing the season for lost teammate Nick Adenhart. Its a great tribute to a player who died tragically. If the Angels were to win it all this year, it would be hard for any baseball fan to be upset about it, even this Yankee fan. What a great feel-good story that would be.
The National League should be pretty simple. The Dodgers look very close to advancing to their second straight NLCS and could very well face the same opponent that took them out last year. The Phillies are even with the Rockies heading to Colorado for games three and four, but the Phillies were one of the best road teams this season. They’re on a mission to repeat and are playing for their lost teammate, long-time broadcaster Harry Kalas.
Teams that win in the playoffs and teams that win championships typically have one thing in common – a deep, dominant bullpen. I believe the Yankees will win this year because they have that advantage over the Angels and any of the remaining National League teams. The Dodgers appear to be the closest, with Sherrill and Broxton as good an eight-nine punch as there is in baseball. But outside of Bellesario and perhaps Kuo, I don’t see the same depth the Yankees have. And before you point out Jeff Weaver, he’s lucky to have made a post-season roster. Weaver’s game one performance is not indicative of his quality, but rather is indicative of the Cardinals inability to hit in this series. (Truly a game of inches, if the ball Ludwick hit down the line didn’t slice just foul, this is a completely different series.) The Yankees still have the greatest closer of all-time in Mariano Rivera. Phil Hughes has been a dependable 8th inning guy all year. The depth beyond these two is what sets them apart. Phil Coke has emerged as the primary lefty with Damaso Marte rebounding nicely. David Robertson has become a mid-inning strikeout machine. Throw in starter/reliever/starter Joba Chamberlain and Chad Gaudin and you’ve got a bullpen that can provide quality innings through a good 14-15 innings at least. Giving a finely-tuned offense like the Yankees that many opportunities is bound to produce wins in the playoffs. And this year, I believe it will give them an opportunity to win a World Series for the first time since 2000.
Regardless of how this year’s playoffs turn out, they should be very exciting to watch. I think the Yankees will win, but don’t expect me to apologize for it.