By Steve Silverman
» More Columns
The most recent baseball postseasons have shown that the best team does not always win.
It’s the hottest team that has come through in October the last two years.
The St. Louis Cardinals barely made it as a wild-card team last year and then had a miracle run through the World Series, the San Francisco Giants used a dominating streak by its starting pitching to beat the Texas Rangers in 2010 and take their first World Series since they left the Polo Grounds at the end of the 1957 season and moved to the Bay Area.
The Yankees go into the playoffs as both the hot team and having the American League’s best record, yet they are all but overlooked. The Yankees may have struggled in the first half of September, but they closed by winning 14 of their last 18 games and were and American League-best 95-67 for the season.
Most of the eyes are on playoff newcomers like the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles and on the Washington Nationals in the National League.
The Orioles haven’t been a playoff team since 1997 and the Moneyball A’s haven’t been there since losing the American League Championship Series in 2006 to the Detroit Tigers.
The Orioles and the A’s are both good enough to push the Yankees to the limit, but the Yankees are better than both of those challengers.
The Yankees may be old, but they have the talent edge on both of those challengers. You have Derek Jeter coming off a 218-hit season. You have Curtis Granderson hitting 43 home runs. But what make the Yankees so imposing in the playoffs is Robinson Cano.
If you want to see what a well-balanced, athletic and dangerous baseball swing looks like, you need to study Cano.
There is nobody in the game that comes close to his finished product with the bat in his hand. The MVP Award is almost certainly going to end up in Miguel Cabrera’s hands and Mike Trout of the Angels will probably be second in the voting. But if you want a great hitter to come up in the most important situation, you can’t go wrong with Cano.
It’s one thing to send up a hitter with a beautiful swing; it’s quite another when that same player is the hottest hitter in the game. Cano finished the season on a streak that few players would even be able to consider, let alone achieve.
Cano goes into the postseason with nine consecutive multi-hit games. He batted .615 during the streak, going 24-for-39 in the process. That would be fairly impressive in slow-pitch softball. For major-league baseball it’s other-worldly.
You may want to dismiss the last three games because they came against the Boston Red Sox who had no desire to play for Bobby Valentine, but hitting major league pitching is always difficult.
Cano’s hot streak lit a fuse for his teammates. Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki all were hitting the ball with authority over the last two weeks.
The star players are not the only ones contributing. Russell Martin may have hit .211 this season, but he has a career-high 21 homers and there is something very clutch about him. Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones combined for 30 home runs.
That’s a pretty good situation. The biggest issues in the lineup are Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Teixeira hit 24 homers in a season noted for nagging injuries and Rodriguez was down to 17 homers. He’s clearly on a downward slide in his career.
That’s actually a good sign. When Teixeira is the player who must prove himself, the Yankees are in good shape to make a World Series run.
They may have to play miracle teams like the Orioles, A’s and Nationals to win another World Series, but the Yankees offensive firepower to put on a show of their own.
Do you think the Yankees have the weapons to compete with the younger teams? Share you thoughts below.