New York Yankees: Gut Check Time Has Arrived
If you're like me—which means you're 30 and still play wiffle ball way more than logic should dictate—you don't trust this Yankees team.
You may feel strange for thinking this way. I know I do. They're probably going to win between 98 and 101 games. By all standard measurements of the sport, this means they're, um, pretty awesome.
But there's something missing, or at least there seems to be. The 2009 squad flashed special traits from the start—the A-Rod homer in Camden Yards, the numerous walk-offs, all those silly celebrations. They gave you the feeling as you entered October that they were different than the other failed experiments of the 2000s.
As it turned out, they were.
Other than Robbie Cano's ninth-inning game-winning homer against the Rays on July 31, I can't say this version of the Yankees has had that same flair for the special. Even before this mini-tailspin, I haven't been able to shake the vision of impending ALDS doom, a la the late-Torre Era. Yes, they've won a lot, but the signature wins, the wins that have the championship DNA, have not materialized.
That can change starting tonight. A half game is all that separates the Rays from overtaking the Yankees for the AL East lead, and C.C, Sabathia will face David Price in the first of three crucial games at Tropicana Field.
Let's face it, beyond losing this series and potentially the division, the Yankees don't want to set up a potential scenario where they're playing a deciding playoff game at The Big Orange Juice. It's the worst stadium in the history of baseball, after all.
To allude to something from earlier, it doesn't even pass the Wiffle Ball Field test, in which you check a potential playing area to make sure it doesn't have any overhangs, trees, or other impediments that can alter the game negatively.
The city of St. Petersburg thought it would be a good idea to build catwalks that could be reached by routine pop-ups. I have trouble even typing that without getting angry. I don't want to lose a pennant because Carlos Pena can hit the ball high.
My point being: Let's ensure deciding playoff games are played at actual baseball fields, preferably ones located in the Bronx, NY, USA.
His last start against Baltimore not withstanding, you have to feel confident Sabathia will do his job tonight, and at least keep pace with Price. The real test will come from the Yankee offense, which is battered and looking, well, a bit long in the tooth as the regular season winds down.
Derek Jeter's career-worst season trudges on, Jorge Posada is in denial about his concussion, Nick Swisher admitted his sore knee isn't getting any better, and Mark Teixeira has fallen into yet another mini-funk.
Someone needs to step up, and it's going to take more than just Sabathia.
The Yankees have proved they can win games this year. Tonight, we'll start to learn if they have the guts, too.
Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.
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