Yank-ed Out in Four

A friend had to pinch me after the last pitch to show me I wasn’t dreaming. Was what I saw on the television real? Had the mighty $200 million Yankees, whose lineup in game one of the ALDS included players with a combined forty-two All Star appearances, two former league MVPs and two four-hundred homer sluggers, just lost to the Detroit Tigers?

One fact is for sure. Yankee fans, many of whom go to UT, are in a state of alarm: The Bronx Bombers haven’t won a championship in six years.

The series was expected to be a wash. The Yankees, with their All-Star lineup and superior payroll, were supposed to stomp all over the Detroit Tigers, thereby ending their storybook season in which they improved by 24 wins over last year and made the playoffs for the first time in nineteen years.

However, as the series unfolded, the exact opposite occurred. Game one went to the Yankees, with probable season MVP Derek Jeter going 5-5, and lifting New York to an 8-4 victory.

After that night, reality hit the Yankees smack in the face.

Starting in game two, it was the Tigers, NOT the Yankees, going deep in the count, being patient at the plate and getting the timely hit.

It was the Tigers, NOT the Yankees making things happen, stealing bases, taking the walk and working Yankee pitchers. Most of all, it was the Tigers, NOT the Yankees, who had the X-factor, a 103-mph flamethrower named Joel Zumaya in relief.

Zumaya dominated the great Yankee hitters, striking out the likes of Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez (who ended the series going 1 for 14, with a .071 average, continuing his Yankee playoff futility).

In game three, Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers dazzled the Yankees, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out eight. Rogers left the remaining Yankees from the late 90s dynasty, like Jeter and Posada, longing for the clutch hitting of guys like Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez, and the greatness of Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite.

One thing is for sure: Those players have been gone for years, and what’s left is big spending on All-Stars, no team chemistry and repeated October failures.

Game four sealed the fate for the Yankees, with Jeremy Bonderman (a 19 game loser three years ago) going eight innings, allowing only two runs from a Yankee club that led the majors with 5.4 runs per game average.

Between games three and four, Rogers and Bonderman combined to hold the Yankees to two runs in 16 innings. Statistics and analyses show a lot, but simply put, the New York Yankees were dominated by a small market, moderate spending, Detroit Tigers team.

This is most likely the final straw in Yankee-land. After all, this was the team that was built to win NOW. Actually, they are expected to win every year.

In New York, anything less is considered a failure and unacceptable. I guess that is what you get when George Steinbrenner signs the checks. You can be sure that changes will be made.

Rumors have already begun that Joe Torre, the manager that brought the team back to prominence, leading them to four World Series in eleven years, will be fired. Alex Rodriguez, who, in New York, has had more media coverage and pressure on him than some world leaders, will likely be traded.

The Yankees can make these changes, but at the end of the day, a change in philosophy might be the answer.

You can sign the biggest names, trade for all the All-Stars and assemble a lineup that can break every record in the book, but if you don’t have the right team chemistry, you won’t be hoisting trophies anytime soon.

Sometimes, it is teams like the Tigers, who go through the losing seasons, take time in developing their youngsters and make a few solid free agent signings that strike gold later. The Yankees might want to pay attention.

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