Barring another Republican fiasco, the biggest news of the weekend is almost certainly the collapse of the New York Yankees. My sense of shaddenfraude: very high!
The ubiquitous Yankees entered the post-season as overwhelming favorites (again) to win the World Series. They field a line up of all-stars (again) and carry the largest payroll in baseball (again). The Tigers had lost 119 games two years ago and have a manager who was born during FDR's last term.
The Yankees get all the prime-time slots while announcers and players who didn't make the playoffs but are brought in to be post-season analysts routinely trip all over themselves handing out their praises. After Derek Jeter went 5 for 5 in game one I heard “he's my favorite player” gush from some guy's mouth on Baseball Tonight. Swoon! But just underneath all the man-love lurked a fragile and dysfunctional team with a crappy pitching staff and zero clutch hitting. After game one, which looks like a fluke now, the Tigers easily dispatched the Yankees in four. It wasn't even competitive.
I think it's time to start comparing the Yankees to the Atlanta Braves. Does anyone really fear this team in the post-season anymore? Long gone is the late 90s dominance. Their premature exit from the playoffs is pretty much routine at this point. They've won the division nine years in a row, but haven't won the big one since 2000. And when you have a payroll more than double what 25 other teams have, you're expected to win the big one. Anything else is failure.
Oh, yeah, these Yankees are proud owners of the greatest choke in post-season history: the 3-0 ALCS lead they turned over to the Boston Red Sox in 2005. No team has ever lost a playoff series after leading 3-0. Ever...in 100+ years of post-season baseball. I'm really glad the Yankees can claim that.
So what the hell is wrong with this team? Well, they're old, hobbled by injuries this year, and they act like a dysfunctional bunch of prima donnas. Jason Giambi just got done flapping his gums about A-Rod in a Sports Illustrated expose. What kind of teammate does that? If you have a problem you take it up in the locker room, not in SI. That embarrassing display capped a season-long attempt to throw A-Rod under the bus by teammates. He will now certainly be the fall guy for their collective failures. Maybe that's not a bad thing if he means he gets traded to some kind of real team. Do any of these guys even like each other? Much less know how to play together?
To quote Giambi, “A-Rod doesn't know who he is. We're going to find out who he is in a few weeks.” Well, we found out A-Rod hit .071 for the series. Giambi kept him company, hitting .175 and sitting out the game four loss. Rather than pointing fingers, bitching, moaning, and bloviating about earning “Yankee stripes” maybe these guys should learn to play together first. A team with a 200 million dollar payroll can probably steam roll its way into the playoffs, but it takes a team to win in post-season. I know that sounds terribly cliché but baseball just works that way, thank God.
And so rather than 2006 World Series Champs, the Yankees will be remembered as a dysfunctional mess that imploded at the usual time. They were too busy figuring out who was going to be the fall guy and not spending enough time manufacturing runs. Thou shalt not earn "Yankee stripes" by trying to save thine own ass. None will be earned by calling teammates out. They're earned though a concept called teamwork. Maybe next year?