By Sweeny Murti
When was the last time the Yankees could consider themselves underdogs? My guess is the 1996 World Series, when the Yanks were a 92-win team taking on the defending World Champions in Atlanta. There was even a feel-good aspect to it all, down 2-games-to-none, back in the World Series for the first time since the 1970’s, untested youngsters Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera making big contributions, and manager Joe Torre leading the way while his older brother lay in a hospital bed awaiting a heart transplant.
Ever since then, however, the Yankees have only been the favorites, fans either rejoicing in more World Series victories or searching for explanations why the juggernaut broke down. Every loss is epic disaster and every win is simply status quo.
So is it really possible that the Yankees can enter 2011 as underdogs? Well, they may not be prohibitive favorites like they always are but nobody will mistake them for the Hickory Huskers. But if that’s what the players need to tell themselves, that they are the team nobody is expecting to win…well, whatever works for them, I guess.
Mark Teixeira arrived at camp Saturday and declared the Yankees ready to take on the rest of the world. It may not be the feel-good story of the year, but as long as the Yankees are not the favorite they might as well be the underdog. Here is Teixeira speaking to reporters Saturday morning in Tampa:
If the attitude spreads, it’s okay with Brian Cashman. The Yankee GM said Saturday, “ I think it’s a good approach. I want the collective (team) to believe that we have to fight, scratch, and claw for it. We’ve worn the target of being the hunted. Let’s be the hunter, see if that works well for us.”
Cashman, stating again what he first noted at the WFAN sponsored breakfast with Mike Francesa last month, said the Red Sox are indeed the favorite at the moment. “They’ve accomplished all their roster goals,” Cashman said of the Red Sox off-season moves. “I have yet to accomplish all of our roster goals. So with that I think everybody who’s being objective would say on paper they’ve got the, uh…if this was a horse race they would have the inside lane. As the race starts they’d have the pole position. Doesn’t mean you win the race.”
“I would say don’t count us out,” Cashman concluded.