The first text message I received from a Yankee fan after the Tigers soundly defeated them this afternoon read simply, "Fucking Royals." It's almost as if the Yankees had no idea this Tiger team was this good -- hell nobody had any idea the Tigers were this good. I thought they'd fold like a cheap tent, just like they did on the last weekend of the season, getting swept by the lowly Royals. When the Twins learned that the Royals beat the Tigers last Sunday, thereby giving them the AL Central title and the honor to host the first two games at home against the A's, they celebrated like they already won the World Series. Avoding the Yankees was victory enough, because it was a forgone conclusion that lineup was at the very least ALCS bound.
Meanwhile, Jim Leyland sold everyone on the whole Freshman vs. Varsity thing, and it worked. I still don't know how he got Kenny Rogers to believe he was the Kevin Brown he managed with the Marlins, but somehow the whole thing worked out. Johnny Damon now has to have Tommy Lasorda convince him to watch any of the remaining playoff games. The Yanks have never played a single World Series game since A-Rod came to the city that doesn't sleep. They've only gone to the Series once since signing Jason Giambi. And they haven't won a title with Mike Mussina in pinstripes. Maybe it's age that's caught up with him, or he's still happy enough from the whole four titles in five years thing, but can you believe that Steinbrenner hasn't erupted in the past six years? What happened to the guy Larry David made fun of on Seinfeld? I'm guessing if the Mets make the Series, the old Steiney will come back, and who knows what that guy will be capable of.
I'm guessing next year's Yanks will look something like this:
LF -- Porn Lover (Matsui)
CF -- Damon
RF -- Abreu
1B -- Gumbo
2B -- Cano
SS -- Captain Jeter
3B -- Head Case
C -- Hip Hip Jorge
In other words, the same as this season. The big question is who will Steiney have Cashman run after to fill the DH spot. It's no secret how badly Steiney wants a Big Papi (Hell who wouldn't), but who's out there that they could really get? Maybe they bring back Sheffield, who seems to -- here's a surprise -- have his feelings hurt about sitting out game 3. But hitting -- even though they didn't do any of it the last 3 games -- isn't the issue.
Oh don't worry Mackenzie and the rest of all of you Yankee fans. Signing Barry Zito right away in the off-season is a done deal, and they'll make a big play for Jason Schmidt and just for old time sake, one of Steiney's all-time favorites in Andy Pettite. But Steiney's gonna point some fingers at "the greatest lineup of all-time". OK, they'll all be directed in the area code known as A-Rod. But how do you move his crazy ass? No team would fall over themselves to try and get him, he's got a no trade clause, he doesn't WANT to leave even though he might be the most hated man in the city, and who the hell are you going to get to even pay HALF of his salary?
But you just can't get past the fact that the big elephant in the Stadium wearing #13 is the Yankees version of Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch. For whatever reason, he brings out the worst in his teammates. You can see the discomfort in Jeter just having to share the same side of the infield with him. Everyone else on the Bronx Bombers seems to get along, but you get the feeling that everyone wants Alex to just leave. You can't hide it anymore. For what ever reasons, he just doesn't fit in with that team, and nobody, namely Jeter, seems to want him to.
The last text message I got read "I still can't name a more successful franchise in the last 6 years." I couldn't resist, reminding my friend that the Yankees have as many World Series titles in the last 6 years as the Royals, Indians, Mariners, Braves, Phillies, Giants, Dodgers, Orioles, Blue Jays, Twins and Cardinals COMBINED. And that's leaving out some teams.
Other than that, there have been two lasting images of this year's playoffs so far:
- Jim Leyland. At the end of game 4, before celebrating with his team, he went to the screen behind home plate to seek out some relatives to kiss. After he planted one on two ladies, some drunken fan came running down and Leyland kissed him too. But the best was seeing the Tigers picked the old man up and carry him from the field to the dugout. You NEVER see that happen anymore, not with players and definitely not with managers. Somewhere, Ozzie Guillen had to be jealous.
- Brade Radke. While everyone else was filtering into their perspective locker rooms following the A's sweeping the Twins, Radke just stood in the dugout, still in his uniform, not wanting to leave seemingly ever. Radke's expected to retire, and just seeing him sitting there, not wanting to believe that it's all over made Twins fans all over weep. It was very reminiscent of Walter Payton's last game, when he stayed in his entire uniform, helmet included, for what seemed like hours after the Redskins beat the Bears and ended the career of Sweetness.