Yankees Take Early Vacation in Tampa, Go Home Losers of Four Straight

Joseph Browne@jbrownesportsNYCorrespondent IISeptember 29, 2011

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi
Yankees Manager Joe GirardiJ. Meric/Getty Images

Nobody likes leaving things undone. Even serial procrastinators dislike that feeling we all get when we know we have something that needs doing.

It's a natural thing to want to complete something and move on, and it's this linear thought process that allows society to keep functioning and avoid a miserable descent into chaos.

We take steps, we go from point A to point B, and we do so knowing that there is order and efficiency in doing so.

The Yankees, though, did not finish some things last night. The Yankees left some things very much undone, in fact, when they let the Rays walk away with an improbable victory that should never have been a possibility.

Specifically, they didn't put the finishing touches on a team that could be a significant threat to their ability to reach the World Series, and they certainly didn't finish their schedule in a way that respects the journey that was their 2011 season.

The Red Sox had been staggering through the entire month of September. They finished the month 14 games below .500. Said another way, they were fifty percent below mediocre.

This from a team projected to stroll by the remainder of the American League and into a preordained match up with Philadelphia for the title.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Conversely, Tampa is on the roll of all rolls right now, and with a justifiably growing sense of destiny about them that makes them that much more dangerous.

If you include Matt Moore, the 2011 version of the 2008 David Price, they essentially have 6 starting pitchers who can all get the job done, including two with ERA's below 3.00 despite having pitched in the American League East all year.  Added up, they are a huge threat to all opponents they face. 

This is not to say that the Yankees game-management approach over the course of the final series with Tampa was definitively harmful.

If you were to ask Yankees management if they had a preference for who they play throughout the playoffs they would more than likely toe the line and respond with the usual cliches.

Furthermore, Yankees management would say, their primary responsibilities were to get their top players some rest, make sure they're as healthy as they can be, and ensure that their pitching was lined up correctly and rested.

Alex Rodriguez Sits
Alex Rodriguez SitsJonathan Daniel/Getty Images

All good intentions, no doubt, however good intentions don't pay the rent. In taking the final three games off as a team, for the most part, at least, the Yankees risked losing the rhythm of the season.Each starting player was rested for long stretches of games or removed from the lineup entirely.

While the Yankees may be on the more mature side in terms of team age, to be kind, it's difficult to accept the notion that a few extra at-bats and innings would have taxed their core players to the point where they'd be rendered harmless for the playoff push.

In the end, professional athletes know how to compete. Talent is key, of course, but the players with the most ferocious desire to succeed are the ones that typically thrive. Winning is in their blood, and the pursuit of it fuels them when their bodies aren't necessarily fully charged. Remove this ingredient, as Yankee management did over these past three games, and you risk having to restart the process across an entire team.

Detroit, New York's opponent in the ALDS, was playing for something up until the last day. Their regulars were asked to play like regulars and they responded with four wins to close out the season.

They were playing Cleveland in their final series, long an afterthought in the playoff picture, and they delivered a knock-out blow. Friday's Game 1 matchup with the Yankees will be just the next game in their season in a practical sense, whereas the Yankees core players will have to be reintroduced to the ebb and flow of truly competitive baseball.

The Yankees are an older team, of course. They've been there and done that, so to speak, and so they will more than likely answer the bell. Regardless, though, professional athletes are tricky animals, mentally conditioned to the grind of the season and all the rhythms that come along with it. Games 160 through 162 should not have been treated like spring training B games, regardless of the reasons. They were, though, and the Yankees may live to regret it.