Thursday, November 5, 2009

Damn Yankees

The World Series turned out pretty much as I expected — the Yankees' left-handed starters, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, made two starts each against a Phillies team with little right-handed power, and the Yanks won three of the four.

I have generally found it impossible to root for the Yankees. The Steinbrenner era, which started in 1973, just four years after I started paying attention to baseball, was one of escalating bullying, smugness and excess. Joe Girardi, the current Yankees manager, said during this Series that George Steinbrenner "deserves" another World Series title; I have my own notion of what his life deserves, and of which circle of the inferno it entails.

But "deserve" has little to do with it. The Yankees outspent everybody by a wide margin yet again, and should have won this championship. But it didn't have to go their way.

Girardi (above) deserves credit for making things go their way. I suspected when he was hired that he was too tightly wound, too intense, to do well in the Yankee job, that in that particular environment the manager needs to ease the pressure, not apply more. Perhaps in the long run that will prove true.

For this year, in this postseason, he recognized the one glaring flaw in his highly-compensated roster, and smothered it. He had three starting pitchers worth any sort of confidence — Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Pettitte — and a stable of young middle relievers.

So he used just the three starters — becoming the first manager since the playoffs went three series deep to win the championship with just three starters — and refused to lean heavily on any reliever not named Mariano Rivera. Everybody else was shuffled in and out.

The Yankees are not a particularly good defensive team, but they don't have to be. They're not, despite the great baserunning play in Game Four by Johnny Damon, a particularly speedy bunch, but they don't have to be. They have a deep lineup, laden with legitimate switch-hitters — the Yankees, according to Baseball Info Systems, had the platoon advantage in 73 percent of their plate appearances, which is a very very high number — and Girardi wisely is content to follow the old dictum credited to Hall-of-Fame manager Bill McKechnie: "If you take care of the percentages, the percentages will take care of you."

Two-hundred million and then some will take care of a lot of percentages.

1 comment:

  1. How long before the Yankee fans start griping again that they haven't won a World Series in a while? 5 years?