It took five long years for the mighty Yankees to get back to the ALCS, but the celebration did not last long, as the Yankees started to prepare for the war with their haunted rivals out west.
In 2008, for the first time since 1995, the Yankees were not playing baseball in October. In the final season of the most historic ballpark in baseball, the Yankees were watching the postseason from home while their former manager, Joe Torre was stringing together wins for the Dodgers.
It seemed like the Yankees experiment with Joe Girardi was a failure and that many changes have to be made. 2008 marked the true end of the era starting in 1996 when Joe Torre arrived in New York. The Yankees powerhouse teams from the '90s were all but forgotten and only a few players remained.
The Yankees revamped their roster over the offseason and the loads of money spent by the Yankees angered New Yorkers whose jobs were either taken or endangered as a result of the global economic recession.
However, Yankee fans could not wish for more as the Yankees added: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher to their already talented roster.
The expectations going into this season were the biggest since 2004 when the Yankees landed Alex Rodriguez in a big trade with the Rangers. Ironically enough, that was the last time the Yankees were in the ALCS and things have gone downhill from there.
In 2009, the Yankees met all expectations during the regular season, posting a stellar 103-59 record. But as always in the Bronx, the regular season means absolutely nothing and the only achievement is a World Series ring.
The first step of this mission started last week in the ALDS against the Twins. A tired Twins team slipped into Yankee Stadium after a great run to finish the season ahead of the Tigers. In Game One, the Twins looked over matched as the Yankees took the game 7-2 behind their ace, CC Sabathia.
Game Two was one of the most exciting games of the past few years in the playoffs or otherwise for the Yankees and the Yankees also took Game Three in Minnesota to close out the sweep.
Next up are the Angels, a pesky team from Anaheim which has haunted the Yankees throughout the Joe Torre era, posting the best regular season record against the Yanks and eliminating them from the playoffs twice in 2002 and 2006.
This matchup looks to be very even and we should be heading for a very close and long series. The Yankees answered all the question marks in the division series against the Twins with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia performing a ta very high level.
The key in this series for the Yankees is the play of Alex Rodriguez and the starting pitching. The Angels have a very strong starting staff and the Yankees have only three reliable starters, a major weakness in seven game series'.
One solution for the starting rotation is to pitch Sabathia in three games: Games One, Four, and Seven. Sabathia could pitch Game Four for the Yankees instead of Chad Gaudin or Joba Chamberlain. Sabathia pitched on three days rest multiple times last season for the Brewers, carrying Milwaukee into the playoffs.
The Angels also present a problem because of their speed and pesky hitting. The Angels have a number of players who can steal bases with ease, and Mike Scioscia teams have always been good run-producing ball clubs.
The Yankees could match up with the Angels by using their own speed to produce runs. Brett Gardner could have a big impact on the series either starting in CF instead of Melky Cabrera or pinch running in the late innings. The Yankees also added Freddy Guzman, a speedy utility man, to their roster for the ALCS.
If Alex Rodriguez keeps on performing the way he has in the last few weeks, the Yankees could pound the Angels bullpen in the late innings and score enough runs to support their starters.
While the Yankees have had nothing go wrong so far in the postseason, things could go wrong if the Angels can get their speed game going and it will be tough to beat them in their own game.
Can the Yankees keep up their play from the division series or will they fold in the hands of the modern "Big Red Machine"?
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