Three things I just learned about the American League Championship Series have combined to give me chills in the last 45 minutes.
1. The format is 2-3-2, which means we're spending four days playing three games in Anaheim.
2. We're 2-4 in Anaheim thus far in 2009, including three gruesome losses in a row in the last weekend before the All-Star Break.
3. Chad Gaudin is still, at the moment, the Yankees' projected Game Four starter.
The first two items on this list are completely out of anyone's control at this point. The Yankees can point to their series victory in late September in Anaheim as proof that they can play anyone, anywhere, and go into the middle games of this best of seven series with less fear in their hearts than I have in mine.
But the third item on that list leaves me wondering whether anyone in the Yankee press corps (yes, Michael and Ken, I'm pointing fingers at you right now) have actually looked at the schedule.
There's two travel days, obviously, already scheduled for the teams' cross-country flights. Those are Sunday the 18th and Friday the 23rd.
Then there's a third day off arbitrarily inserted on Wednesday the 21st between Games Four and Five. And in that magical, unbelievably obnoxious third day lies an interesting proposition.
Does anyone remember C.C. Sabathia's final four starts of the 2008 regular season? He went 2-2 with a 1.88 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 28.2 innings to drag the Brewers into the playoffs—and he did it all on short rest.
With the four extra days before his next start, Sabathia will be fully rested for Game One on Friday night. He could take the ball in Game Four next Tuesday (the 20th) on three days rest, and (with the extra off day in Los Angeles) still be available for a potential Game Seven on the normal four days in between starts.
Burnett and Pettitte? They'd start Games Two and Three, and be on the normal four days of rest for starts in Games Five and Six, if and when they become necessary.
In all fairness, I want to take a moment to deplore the people who set this schedule up. Baseball isn't hockey. Baseball players do not need a day in between games during postseason play to heal the bumps and bruises of a non-contact sport. Extra days off interrupt the flow of momentum and focus, the two most important factors over a 162-game season. It ruins the game!
(Now I'll go back to explaining how the Yankees can use it to their advantage.)
Does anyone really want to see Chad Gaudin start in Anaheim, even if the Yankees are somehow magically up three games to none? Did we not learn about hubris five years ago when we let Kevin Brown and Orlando Hernandez' Low-80s Fastball start three combined games in a championship series?
We have the best three-man rotation in the sport right now. There's no good reason to add a mediocre fourth arm to the mix when the schedule doesn't make it absolutely necessary.
More thoughts, plus a postmortem on the Twins series, tomorrow.