By Rich Coutinho
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I know…I know…The last person a Yankee fan wants to hear from is Rich Coutinho…noted Yankee hater but a lot of my friends are Yankee fans and as a follower of the Mets, I feel their pain today. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m elated the Yanks lost but I did feel compelled to write something about the Evil Empire’s season coming to an abrupt end last night.
This is the thing about the high payroll teams in baseball — it generally gets you through the regular season grind, but the short series is the great equalizer and a five game series is the ultimate equalizer. For the New York Yankees whose payroll is off the charts, the ALDS has been a very painful experience since 2002. When you consider the Yankees have been in nine ALDS series since the 2001 season and have only gone 4-5 in those series and that all of those four series wins came against the Minnesota Twins, you really scratch your head because certainly the Yankees were better than most of those teams.
In fact, since Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS the Yankees are a very ordinary 22-23 in post-season and that includes an 11-4 post season record in their World Championship year of 2009. People will point to many factors when breaking down the latest Yankee playoff meltdown but I really believe it is a complex issue. On first glance, the hitters will get much of the blame but the bottom line here is a simple one.
The one year the Yankees won the World Series their pitchers performed at a high level and although the team got creditable performances from their bullpen and a shocking lights out night from AJ Burnett, the team was relying on a rookie pitcher to get them to the finish line in a deciding Game 5. Nova should have been a #3 starter behind CC Sabathia and a second banana in the rotation. That “second guy” was supposed to be Cliff Lee and the team got real lucky with Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia in the regular season but the inherent problem is guys like that are generally exposed in the post-season and on a team with a payroll in the stratosphere they should not be starting any game in October.
I firmly believe this series was lost in Game 2 when the Yankees (because of a rain out) went with Freddie Garcia. Instead of dropping the hammer on the Tigers, that game opened the door for them. Verlander out-pitched CC in Game 3 and despite a gift from Burnett, it was too much to overcome. CC was not exactly CC in this series but that had as much to do with circumstances rather than talent — he never pitched with the proper rest. That is even more the reason to have a #2 behind CC and in front of Nova. I still think that guy could be Phillip Hughes.
Ok that is enough Yankee talk for me on this day–I must know go back to my real job of covering the Mets.
What do you think Yankee fans? Leave a comment below.