By Jason Keidel
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My pal writes a popular baseball blog. Well, pal is relative, as he’s a Red Sox fan. As you know, if you really fly your team’s colors in all endeavors, you can’t love the Yankees and have a dear friend who resides in Red Sox Nation. So let’s say the friendship is more professional than personal, and it must stay that way.
He declares without a hint of regret that he rooted for Arizona in 2001, and I retort by huffing that I’d root for Fidel’s Cuba (with Castro managing) over his sacred Sox. But, while interviewing me for his Web site this week, the man asked a fair question and it deserved an honest answer.
Do the Yankees have enough pitching to win the World Series?
Sure, with enough fight and fate any result is possible. But the San Francisco Giants, who had the worst lineup of any World Series winner I’ve ever seen, didn’t suffer from a dearth of dominant pitching. They had more strong arms than an octopus. It’s universally accepted that defense in football and basketball and pitching in baseball win championships. Is there anything in or around the Yankees that argues for arm supremacy?
The Yankees have an authentic ace in CC Sabathia, and that’s where the clarity ends and parity begins. Picture the marquee pulsing from the limestone façade: “CC and the Four Variables”
Has a nice ring to it, until you remove the needle from the record and realize the quartet doesn’t play an instrument but is instrumental in this pennant race.
And what if, heaven forbid, Sabathia stinks for an October night? You expect the erratic Burnett, A.K.A. A.J. Burnout, to save the day? Hughes, blessed with a lovely right arm, has yet to prove his playoff merit, and hasn’t won a road playoff game.
“Look at Colon!” you shriek, “And Garcia!”
I’m looking. Trust me. And I nestled into the Bartolo bandwagon a few months ago. But we’re talking geriatrics by any athletic standard. Sure, my timing is terrible, as each pitcher pitched beautifully this week, surrendering one earned run in a combined 13 innings. But that doesn’t alter the cold calculus of time, which works against both men.
Oddly, both men had their finest hours in 2005, when Garcia (who turns 35 in two months) pitched the Chicago White Sox to their first World Series title in an eon and Colon, 38, won the Cy Young award.
But this isn’t 2005, and it’s my job to remember that. Do we really expect Colon to waddle his way out to a frigid mound and throw a vivid eight innings? Trust me, I’m not hating (you’d know if I were) but Mike Francesa leads a host of hosts who accurately assert that the Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney of pitchers can pound out a great show or two but probably aren’t a safe bet to go on a six-month tour, which is precisely what is being asked of the back-end of the Yankees’ rotation. Simply, we’ve gotten more from both than we would reasonably expect
Each hurler could collapse under the heat of summer and drumbeat of age while they wage a playoff war. I’m not even knocking the bullpen, which has two gaping holes in the losses of Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano. (How are those Joba rules going for ya?) Brian Cashman declared that Hughes is back after one solid start. With all due respect, this is the same GM who brought the Bombers Kevin Brown, Kei Igawa, Jaret Wright, and Kyle Farnsworth, among many bombs. Cashman has made some lovely free agent acquisitions, but, Sabathia aside, almost none of them were pitchers.
Like most of you, I bristle at the Yankees forfeiting every fruit in their farm system for Ubaldo Jimenez, the talented but tainted 27-year-old pitcher who comes with more warning labels than a pack of cigarettes. If the Yankees can’t get a fair deal in the next nine days, I say make no deal, and sweat and suffer with CC’s chorus.
Only in the Bronx is the ALCS a failure. About two years ago, I interviewed Joe Torre for another publication and he retold the tale of that spring training game in 2002, when a fan handed Torre a pen to pen some memorabilia, and he said to the skipper, “You’ll get ‘em next year, Joe,” implying that losing Game 7 of the World Series reflected a rancid season. It didn’t keep Torre from managing another five years, or cashing those titanic, pinstriped checks, but it did italicize a common cadence among the pampered masses who call themselves Yankees fans.
But when you charge $2,500 for ringside seats for regular season games, you are open to the surgical splicing of your franchise. It is why, as they say, you get paid the big bucks, to bask in New York’s glow without burning in its glare. We’ve seen many a man thrive west of the Hudson only to find himself escorted out on the symbolic stretcher, unable to cope with the cacophonous cry for title No. 25, 26, or 27.
And this is why you hate the Yankees and their fans: we whine all the time, parsing between rich and wealthy, when all notions are abstract to nearly all others, in baseball and life. This fan can’t blame you. We are insufferable, spoiled, with that historical hubris at our backs. “Got Rings?” is our normal, infantile response to a reasonable question.
Do the Yankees have the pitching mandate for 28? I’m afraid not. But don’t quote me on that until August 1, the day after the deadline.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
What do you think? Can the Yankees win it all with the staff they have? What caliber pitcher will take them over the top?