Can Close Call Propel New York Yankees to World Series?
I have one rule that I've tried to follow in more than 40 years covering sports: Don't repeat yourself.
It's why I've been observing my own code of silence for a month regarding the New York Yankees.
I was chastised by some Yankee fans for suggesting in spring training that Alex Rodriguez should bat sixth. You can look it up, as legendary Yankees manager Casey Stengel used to say.
I also suggested that the Yankees should try to peddle A-Rod to Miami for Hanley Ramirez, picking up at least half of what he is owed for the next five years. Ramirez did not want to play third base for Marlins but probably would have had no objections if he were wearing pinstripes.
A-Rod grew up in Miami and would have been a fan favorite and elder statesman there.
I also wrote on more than one occasion that Curtis Granderson had become home run happy, sacrificing his batting average and other aspects of his game to reach the 40-homer mark again.
I had the audacity to write that the Yankees might have been better off in the long run if they had kept Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, injecting some young blood into the lineup.
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Montero had a so-so season in Seattle, but he also had no protection in the lineup. Jackson, meanwhile, had a breakout season.
When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki, I thought he should have immediately batted leadoff or second, behind Derek Jeter, to give the offense more diversity. It took manager Joe Girardi a couple of months to figure that out.
I don't claim to be a genius, because anyone observing the Yankees would have come to the same conclusions.
The question now is whether the Yankees' flaws will be exposed even more by the Detroit Tigers, who figure to produce more runs than the light-hitting Baltimore Orioles, or whether the Yankees will overcome the controversy surrounding A-Rod's benching and do some Bronx bombing of their own the ALCS.
The Yankees beat the Orioles because they received terrific pitching, better in fact, than anyone had a right to expect. But there was no Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera in the Orioles lineup and no Justin Verlander to counter CC Sabathia.
The Yankees will have to start hitting to win this series and will probably have to rely on the long ball, as they did all season. Offenses aren't transformed overnight, and the Yankees of 2012 will be defined by the home run.
Should the Yankees keep A-Rod on the bench or put him back in the lineup against the Tigers?
I would also put A-Rod back in the lineup and have him bat sixth. Depending on how he responds to the benching in Game 5 against the Orioles, I would live or die with him with one exception: If he hasn't started hitting when Verlander pitches, then he should sit.
The Yankees judge every season by whether they get to and win the World Series. This is an important year for them. I'm going to repeat myself now, but they are old and facing diminished returns from A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, who are both under long-term contracts for Monopoly money.
Nick Swisher and Russell Martin will likely be gone after this season. For all his heroics, Raul Ibanez is a part-time player. Andy Pettitte cannot be counted on, because of his age and the fact he is prone to injury. And there is no one in the minors ready to step up in 2013 and help this team.
But first things first.
There are no superteams in either league, so the Yankees are capable of surviving the close call against the Orioles and making it to the World Series again.
This figures to be a hitter's series, however, and New York will have to be the Bronx Bombers to beat the Tigers.
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