The only analogy I can apply to tomorrow’s tie-breaker in the AL Central is that it is resembles two featherweights squaring off to earn a chance to take on Muhammad Ali circa 1965, and he’s wearing pinstriped shorts.
Going into the playoffs, the Yankees have to be considered the favorites across the board, given the strong regular season and ridiculous second half. However, on Wednesday, the wins reset to zero and everyone is back to square one. Yankee fans know better than most: the Division Series is never a foregone conclusion.
This year, the Yankees are in a better position heading into the playoffs than perhaps they’ve ever been: Everyone not named Chien Ming Wang or Xavier Nady seems to be healthy and rested, the bullpen remains solid, Jeter and Tex are having MVP years, scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem from the top offense in the game (knock on wood), Alex seems as relaxed as he’s ever been in NY and, sh*t, even Joba looked strong out of the bullpen on Sunday.
In 2006, I was ecstatic to draw the Tigers, who were slumping towards the end of the season. In 2007, how could I imagine losing to the Indians after sweeping them in the season series? No team, no mattter how things might look, is going to roll over in the playoffs. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it, as the saying goes. Therefore, the fact that the Yankees stand at 7-0 against the Twins this year goes out the window, as does our 5-1 mark against the Tigers. The slates are wiped clean.
Still, that doesn’t mean the Yankees don’t match up well with either team. They’ll also enjoy the advantage of resting in New York while they browse over scouting reports while the Tigers and Twins have it out
, followed by their opponent boarding a plane to the Big Apple to open Game 1 the following night.
The Tigers and Twins aren’t even thinking about the Yankees yet. If they don’t win tomorrow, the Yankees won’t even be a concern. The Twins or Tigers, following their win tomorrow, will have less-than-ample time to prepare for the Big, Bad Bombers from the Bronx.
As long as the Yankees don’t get overanxious and do the things that got them here, I feel very confident about our chances. There are several things that stood out to me this year which make me feel that things are conspiring to bring a parade down the Canyon of Heroes. First off, A-Rod has figured out we’d take 30 homers that mean something than 50 that come in blowouts. He has been extremely clutch this year, a very good sign. Second, everyone is healthy and Girardi had time to give everyone a break. The importance of this cannot be underestimated after the marathon that is the MLB schedule, just ask the Tigers and Twins. Perhaps the most important development this year, and the one that gives me the most hope, is the completion of the Philip J. Hughes Bridge. The signature of the Yankee championship teams near the turn of the century was good pitching, both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. Hughes is going to be called upon when the game is nearing its most critical point and, along with Rivera, has the opportunity to turn playoff games into 6 inning affairs.
Things are looking up for the Yankees. We can talk about it all day and night and pour through the stats, but in the end all we can do is watch it play out on the field. Year in and year out, playoff baseball doesn’t disappoint! It is always exciting! After all the cans of whip cream A.J. Burnett went through this season, I am expecting no less from the Yankees in October (and, this year, November).