Keidel: Pinstripe Pride

By Jason Keidel
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If it’s possible, if you can see over the pyramid of cash, the titanic $200 million payroll, the Yankees were overlooked this year, the presumed bridesmaids in the AL East. I, for one, was supremely cynical about the team’s chances this year once Philadelphia stole Cliff Lee from their platinum paws and Andy Pettitte retired unexpectedly.

(And who would have thought that out of all the young pitching the Yankees flaunted a few years ago, the one they dumped the fastest – Ian Kennedy – would be the best? Kennedy, the favorite for the NL Cy Young, is only 20-4 with a 2.88 ERA, while Hughes meanders from medical appointments to the trainer’s table to epidurals to stiffness to… and Joba, despite the tailored pitch counts and coddling, gets Tommy John surgery.)

I didn’t believe in a pitching staff with a stiff (A.J. Burnett), two graybeards (Colon and Garcia), and an injury-prone prodigy (Hughes). Even with a deep lineup and solid bullpen, the Yankees were still subject to the adage that you go as far as your young limbs will carry you. But the Bombers proved the pundits wrong, moonwalking to the division crown and the best record in the American League.

NESN – the official television network of the Red Sox – predicted before this season that Boston would supplant the ’27 Yankees as the greatest team ever. You can understand why a few of us chuckle and snort over such foolishness. In fairness, I thought Boston was better than New York entering the season – as everyone else did – but I also thought it was Philadelphia’s season to lose, what with four aces bulging from the bullpen.

Grit is a campy handle, regurgitated so promiscuously that we don’t know when it applies. Well, smack that moniker on the Yankees, a team that won sans a sparkling rotation, without A-Rod for much of the season, without Rafael Soriano (their prized procurement over the winter) pitching well (if at all) for the bulk of the year, without Joba and Hughes making much noise, and without Jorge Posada’s mojo.

Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia pitched past the back of their baseball cards, finding an ephemeral fountain of youth when the Yankees were desperate to find a solid start from someone not named Sabathia. Both pitchers are suddenly showing their age, but they kept their arms intact long enough to guide the surging Yankees to 95 wins (so far).

The one constant – for 16 years running – is the immortal Mariano Rivera, who defies the deities, Father Time, and every measurement man uses to gauge middle-age pitchers.

And despite CC and Mo meeting their stratospheric expectations, neither is the squad’s best hurler in 2011. That would be David Robertson, who is called Houdini by his pinstriped brethren. Robertson has pitched to Playstation stats – 1.11 ERA, with 96 strikeouts in 64.2 innings (seriously). He has surrendered eight runs all year.

George Steinbrenner’s death is evident beyond the bronze memorials. The Yankees were downright gleeful after securing at least a wild card spot and then the division title on Wednesday, eagerly shaking hands, hopping in place, and spraying volcanic bottles of shaken champagne on each other.

But the mandate in the Bronx hasn’t changed, and the dynastic Yankees used to treat a division crown with a rigid, corporate formality.

Joe Girardi must be given some credit for the team’s monolithic drive in the face of many roadblocks to October. But even G.I. Joe’s job isn’t assured if his Yanks are bounced in the first round of the playoffs. A Steinbrenner still runs this team and they don’t run AL East crowns up the flagpole.

But for now, a roomful of popping corks and three-quarters of the Core Four acting like little boys must be a nice break from the New York media and the minefield of October baseball. Perhaps the adolescent celebration was warranted, particularly if there are more to come next month.

Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com

www.twitter.com/JasonKeidel

Are you shocked by the Yankees’ success, or did you see it coming? Sound off on your Bombers fandom in the comments below…

Comments

One Comment

  1. Jonas A-K says:

    This series tough. Boston wins, advantage Boston. Yankees win, they good to go until Phillies.

    1. Jonas A-K says:

      CENSORS BAD!

      1. JK says:

        Friend good; fire bad!

  2. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

    Yeah, it’s funny to think that at the beginning of the year, so many people were writing the Yanks off as the dregs of the AL East. I saw so many misinformed blogs and whatnots that predicted the Yanks finishing fourth, or even fifth, just to be “out there” and because they “really didn’t think the Yanks did what they needed to do to improve.” But I’m no hypocrite. Though I knew the Yanks wouldn’t finish THAT poorly – that’s just misinformed wishful thinking – I did think, for a while, that the Yanks might finish third in the division, behind that obvious offseason juggernaut from Boston and maybe, just maybe, the seemingly upgraded, Showalter-guided Orioles.

    Don’t laugh too hard at me, please. Wishful thinking, I suppose, but with Vlad, Reynolds and Lee added, they looked like they could’ve been contenders.

    Then the Yanks got off to a great start, and reminded most of us: Oh, yeah, they still have Tex, Cano, Jeter and A-Rod on the infield, Granderson and Swisher in the outfield, and CC on the mound. I know A-Rod isn’t anything wunderbar this year, but the point still stands: they were still a good team who really only lost Pettitte over the winter from a team that made the ALCS last year, when Boston didn’t even make the playoffs.

    1. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

      So congratulations, Yankees, on defying the odds that were metaphorically stacked higher than they should’ve been. George would be proud, though not of the rotation.

      1. JK says:

        One guy I omitted, Jonas, was Nova. His emergence (16-4) gave the team a vital boost. My apologies, Ivan. But who could have seen him coming?

        1. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

          No one could’ve seen him coming. No one probably saw Dillon Gee coming (albeit he has fizzled out after a full season), and I can guarantee you zero baseball analysts ever could’ve predicted 20 wins out of Ian Kennedy over in AZ. My goodness…

          So who’s more of a surprise: Nova or Robertson?

          1. JK says:

            Nova bigger surprise, because we haven’t seen him. We knew Robertson had an electric arm, but no control. Walks were killing him. 96 SO in 64.2 IP? Wow!

            1. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

              An electric arm, but no control. Hmm… now where have I heard that one before… Props to Robertson for getting his stuff together and doing so quite well.

              1. JK says:

                Nolan Ryan, whom your Mets traded for a bag of potato chips…?

                1. Jonas Altman-Kurosaki says:

                  To be fair, those potato chips were allegedly gourmet, which is why we agreed to also accept Jim Fregosi in the deal. Rumor has it the chips were even less productive than Fregosi, though, since at least Fregosi didn’t give them heartburn.

                2. JK says:

                  It said “Gourmet” on the cover, but then you opened the bag. Heh. It’s like those puffy bags of Doritos you’re all fired up to eat, then you rip it open and there are like ten chips inside. False advertising!

    2. JK says:

      I certainly didn’t have NY coming in fourth, but a distant second was reasonable at the time. I was way wrong, as were many.

  3. joe hymovitz says:

    now… all of a sudden, we only have 2 starters,,,,the question is… can girardi and rothchild find a way to piece together 11 more wins… the real season starts friday… it should be interesting

    1. JK says:

      Indeed, Joe. Do you like their chances in October?

  4. Robert Richardson says:

    I too am ecstatic that my beloved Yanks have a “overachieved” (sounds like a misnomer) and once again are on track for October baseball. And though we all can pause to revel in the moment and the season’s various accomplishments, we all know in the back of our minds how this has to end. Because Yankee Universe have been spoiled by success, we must have that ring or the season will be another failure.

    1. JK says:

      The AL is a minefield this year, bud. Do want the Sox again? Or Verlander instead? Or Texas, who whipped us last year? Then your reward is Philadelphia. Heh.

      1. Robert Richardson says:

        Revel in your time !!!!!

        1. JK says:

          True that. I just see so many teams who can beat the Yanks. But since they’ve proven us wrong all year, why stop now?

  5. JK says:

    Even with Burnett the bum and two geriatrics (Garcia & Colon) in the rotation, dude?

    1. Kurt Spitzner says:

      THEY HAVE TOO MUCH TALENT IN TOO MANY PLACES THAT NEVER SEEM TO GEL AT THE SAME TIME SO THE COMPLEMENT AND BACK EACH OTHER UP VERY NICELY.ITS AMERICAN LEAGUE BASEBALL MAN!JUST REMEMBER THEY ARE ALL SHORT SERIES THAT ARE COMING AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN ESPECIALLY WHEN THE MEET THE NATIONAL LEAGUE AND THE OLD SCHOOL RULES!

  6. Kurt Spitzner says:

    I HAD LITTLE DOUBT THEY WOULD SUCCEED JUST AS I HAD LITTLE DOUBT JETER WOULD COME AROUND AS THATS EXACTLY WHAT HISTORY HAS DICTATED!

  7. JK says:

    We can’t do that, bud, if we keep waxing Tampa. Heh.

  8. pugphan says:

    It would be the icing on the cake to see the Yanks knock the Bosucks out of the wild card…smokersodysseycom

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