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An Optimistic Outlook on the Yankees in the 2011 ALDS

Detroit wins the series (Photo by AP)

After facing elimination in Game 4, the New York Yankees beat the Detroit Tigers 10-1, forcing a game five back in the place where they place most comfortably. Their offense finally came alive and showed how dangerous it can be at any given time. The momentum shifted and favored the Yankees.

What offense? What momentum?

Before everybody starts bashing on the team and cursing their name, there is so much to take into consideration. There is so much more to think about than just a final score, even if that is the only thing that matters.

First things first, we are forgetting that half the Yankees roster will be eligible for social security in about five years.

No excuse? Doesn’t matter? Fine, I didn’t buy it either. There really aren’t enough fingers on two hands to point the blame but since we have to start somewhere, let’s start with the biggest pink elephant in the room, minus the Cameron Diaz, the Madonna’s, and the Kate Hudson’s.

Alex Rodriguez

In 2009, Alex Rodriguez temporaily made us forget about Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in 1977. He made us forget about almost every other poststeason hero in New York Yankees history by putting the team on his back and carrying them all the way into the World Series. More importantly, he made us forget about his terrible postseason numbers.

This year, this postseason, he reminded us all again of the same old Alex Rodgriguez, batting .111 for the series. BUT, let’s leave the guy alone. Yes, he is paid millions and millions of dollar to hit a baseball. Yes, he struck out to end the game and the series. And yes, he is Alex Rodgriguez but like everyone else, he is only human. I don’t know if anyone actually expected him to step it up. I know no one expected him to do in 2009.

For the next month or so, the most fingers will be pointed at him. Eventually, people will forget and start to remember what every Yankee fan is holding on to, now two years removed from the World Series. After hitting his game-tying, ninth inning home run in Game 2 of the 2009 ALDS, the sheer elation of the crowd put goosebumps on everyone’s bodies. His home runs in Game 3, the ALCS, and in the World Series directly contributed to the Yankees 27th ring. A-Rod’s ninth inning double in Game 4 of the World Series not only won the game but set the tone for the whole series.

We can go on and on about A-Rod’s memborable moments of the 2009 poststeason and people will still remember all the other years he did not come through in the clutch at all. Once again, let’s look at the bigger picture. How easy is it to win a World Series? Not easy at all. If we can compare A-Rod to a player of his caliber in this generation it would be Albert Pujols. Where is his ring? Now the argument can come in about the fact that Alex had a better supporting cast. No one truly realizes that with the exception of the stellar three-man rotation, A-Rod did it all by himself.

Whether he ever does it again or not, it is time for everyone to let it go. I mean come on, he is only the richest baseball player ever to step on a diamond. It’s not like he dates women the rest of us can only dream about. Let’s stop asking so much from the guy.

Derek Jeter

If you’re blaming Derek Jeter for the loss, just stop watching baseball in general. The guy has a heavier left hand than a wealthy, engaged woman. He has the heaviest left hand in the league, besides Mariano and Posada. If you have not understood up until this point, he has enough World Series rings to fill up one hand.

He is Derek Jeter. What more needs to be said? Although, a little bit more power and a few feet deeper, the Captain would have been the hero once again. I’m sure everyone held their breath once the ball left the bat in the eighth inning on one of Jeter’s famous Jeterian swings to right field. After Brett Gardner singled with two outs, Jeter came up and hit a deep fly ball to right field leaving Joaquin Benoit to simply shake his head, sigh, and let out a big “phew!”

What a story that would have been. The captain coming through in the clutch. There’s always next year and the year after that. There’s always his pursuit of 4,000 hits. No? It could happen…maybe. Maybe Jeter will fight Father Time like his boy Mariano. It’s something to look forward to. You can’t blame a guy for dreaming.

Offense

The offense was lackluster to say the least. In the two games that the Yankees won in the series, they scored a combined 19 runs. In the three games that they lost, they scored a combined nine runs. There’s your problem. For once, the pitching is not under the gun. If there is one thing that will define the Yankees offense in this short five-game series, it is wasted opportunities and oh boy, there were plenty.

Most people don’t realize that if Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez both hit a lazy fly ball as they had done in every previous at bat, the Yankees would have won the game or at least tied it. Besides the numerous grand slams hit, the Yankees find it very difficult to come through when the bases are juiced. Understandably, the pressure builds up and the situation becomes a stressful one, but how hard is it to hit a fly ball. Maybe it is harder than I think after being known solely for my fielding in little league, but come on, we’re not in little league anymore. This is what you are paid to do. If you were paid to pop up to the third baseman and strike out constantly, I would have signed up a long time ago.

As much as we all want to place blame on certain individuals and turn them into scapegoats, the offense as a whole should take full responsibility for losing this series; the offense and maybe Joe Girardi but we will get to that later, don’t worry.

It almost seemed that if the Yankees weren’t scoring runs via the long ball, they weren’t scoring at all. Every run in the playoffs is important, no matter how you get it done. How are you going to win if runners are stranded on base inning after inning? How are you going to win if no one decides to step up? You aren’t. With all things considered, one big hit would have won the Yankees the series.

When facing the Yankees, it is vital to get to them early and bury them when you have the chance. If that plan does not succeed, then most of the time you are in big trouble. Well, the Detroit Tigers did not succeed with that plan. The only problem, the Yankees did not capitalize. How many chances did they have to silence the excessive cheering and celebrating of Jose Valverde? They let him off the hook one too many times. They left the bases loaded one too many times. They choked one too many times.

Joe Girardi

Here we go. Where to begin?

Luis Ayala? Come on Joe. All you do is talk about how stellar your bullpen is. Use it the right way then.

In Game 2 of the series, Girardi called upon Luis Ayala to stop the bleeding after the Yankees were already down 4-1. Ayala came in and gives up a run to make it 5-1. That’s okay. What’s a four-run deficit against a closer who has forgotten what a blown save feels like? Even better, the Yankees scored two runs in the ninth inning.

But wait, it gets better.

There is nothing you can do about an injury. If a player is hurt than a player is hurt. That’s fine. Ivan Nova had to be pulled from game five. Phil Hughes is coming in? Let’s hope it is the Phil Hughes from two years ago, winning 18 games. An impressive one-two-three third inning? Alright Phil, now we’re talking. You gave up a hit to the leadoff batter in the fourth? That’s okay. Throw one of those nasty curveballs, get a ground ball and we’re back in business. Wait, Joe Girardi is walking back to the mound? He’s taking him out? Already? But it’s only the fourth inning. Oh wait, he has Boone Logan warming up. We’re safe.

Is anyone laughing yet?

Well, I am, thinking about it now but during the game, I simply stared at the television in disbelief and shook my head. Although, once again, it gets better.

CC Sabathia is coming in? Why didn’t he just relieve Nova? The guy has never had a relief appearance in his life but I guess he is the guy we all want in this game right now. No CC, not you too?! Two walks, two hits, and a run when the Yankees can’t afford to give up any more runs. Okay, he is settling down. He is our ace. He will battle. Wait, here comes Girardi to the mound again. Is he seriously changing the pitcher again or is he just catching up on his cardio?

You get the picture, right? Ironically enough, all of Girardi’s bogus moves did not come back to bite him in the butt. It’s just frustrating to watch when the guy is practically experimenting during a decisive playoff game. Spring training ended over five months ago. Stop over-managing.

Understandably, it is extremely easy to second guess his decisions now regardless of if they hurt the Yankees or not. No one knows what is going to happen during a game but you can’t help but get annoyed. I wonder if Girardi owns the sorting hat from Harry Potter and waits for it to spit out a name. Does he have a bowl in the dugout filled with names that he randomly picks out of? Maybe I am being too hard on the guy. Maybe not. Maybe he knows what he is doing after all. Maybe he doesn’t.

Red Sox Nation and Mets Nation (or there lack of)

It felt good watching the Yankees lose, huh? I’m sure it did. We’ll see you on the golf course.

Wrapup

This is where the optimism comes in. Yes, we are all disappointed in the outcome of the series but how easy is it really to win a World Series? I will be the first to get upset and curse at the television but at the same time, we as Yankee fans are the most spoiled fans in the whole world of sports. With the exception of the Phillies of late, who has actually made noise in the playoffs consistently? Look at the San Fransisco Giants. It may be fun to watch Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson pitch but name me another player on that team. Tell me something else that has happened regarding the team since they won the World Series besides the whole Carlos Beltran ordeal. The only reason why that recieved any attention was because he used to play in New York, even if it was at that other stadium.

The New York Yankees will always be America’s team. Forget about the Dallas Cowboys. The Yankees will always define New York just as much as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and of course hot dogs in Times Square. So they aren’t going to win another World Series. I can’t lie and say I don’t care but I’m getting over it. We all should. We’re living in the time of Derek Jeter for crying out loud. Name a bigger icon walking the streets of New York. I don’t care how many albums Jay-Z has released no matter how much I enjoy his music. Yankee fans have seen games most sports fans only witness in their subconscious. What more can we ask for?

As overused and outplayed as this saying is, there is always next year. Despite all the questions needed to be answered in the offseason, we all already know that this time next year, we will either be complaining about the same thing or watching another playoff run.

It could always be worse. We could all be Met fans.

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