Let me just start off by tooting my own horn for reminding people that the season doesn’t end on June 11th…
It’s always important to remember in a baseball season that it’s a 162-game marathon. Nothing is decided in one month, or two, or three for that matter. All you can do is hope your team stays close to the pack and then makes a run right around the time where you begin to worry that perhaps you didn’t get to do ‘enough’ this summer.
Low and behold, two months after the Yankees were shockingly put into an unthinkable position, going 0/8 against the Red Sox to start a season, the team is suddenly looking better than they have in years. And there’s a buzz surrounding this team that something special is brewing in the Bronx.
This weekend you saw it all. You saw reminders of why A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia were so sought after in the off-season. You saw the value of Teixeria, with his glove, bat and personality. You saw the new determination and the always questionable ability to hit in the big spot from Mr. Rodriguez. You finally saw all the potential that had been missing the last couple years with Robinson Cano. You saw defense, big hits, curtain calls, a very fantastic bullpen, the ability to win close games late, and best of all you saw a four game series sweep of the hated Red Sox. Suddenly, losing the first 8 to the Red Sox is as distant a memory as Spring Training.
In addition to all of that the men in pinstripes have got another unfamiliar thing going for them that you haven’t seen in recent years. They’re having fun, laughing, and staying upbeat even at the most tense moments in games. During Friday night’s game- A game that we’ll all remember one way or another. A game that stretched almost the length of two games, you saw two very different tales in each dugout. You saw a defeated, tense, almost desperate Red Sox dugout. Perhaps sensing they needed a win, perhaps sensing they could feel the AL East slipping away, or perhaps sensing the negative energy around one of their leaders, David Ortiz. The Red Sox dugout seemingly became a mortuary the moment Melky reached the second deck off Smoltz on Thursday night’s game.
Meanwhile in the other corner you saw a loose, optimistic, childish energy in the Yankees’ dugout. As Melky Cabrera almost put away the game in 14th inning on Friday night. Players in the Yankees dugout were almost giggling as they grabbed their head in their hands with smiles on the faces, cringing with optimism. Wearing rally caps, beating on the dugout rails, and encouraging their man to put the game away.
Smiles on their faces while playing the hated Red Sox have not been found since the Sox smacked the luster off those 26 championships when they dropped the greatest comeback in sports history 5 seasons ago. To think of this team smiling now considering the status of their season 8-weeks ago is borderline unimaginable. Those same Red Sox, who seemed so unbeatable on June 11th, are now suddenly in danger of not making the playoffs. And the as for the Yankees, they’re on the cusp of running away with the lead in the AL East, and hiding.
Despite the excitement over the Yankees 4-game sweep, I will urge Yankee fans to remain caution when planning to call in sick the day of the ticker-tape parade. After all, it was just a week-plus ago, when the Yankee were considered the hottest team in baseball and came in to Chicago to play the White Sox for 4-games. Last weekend was a far different outcome than this weekend as the Yanks left the Windy City with their tail in between their legs and worried that after seeing the Red Sox this weekend, they might be on the outside looking in.
What a difference a week makes.
What is becoming evident in this 2009 MLB campaign, is that despite coming into the season with more starting pitching depth than any team in the league, and being a perennial favorite on many “experts” pre-season prediction, the Red Sox now find themselves on the ledge of the reality that this season just might not be the one where they win it all.
This is a reality that Yankees fans must come to terms with also. Because although you hate the Red Sox with every ounce of sports passion you might have, and you might be the top-dog in the American League this morning, the second best team is not the hated enemy from 200 miles north, it’s most likely a team that lays their heads somewhere west of here.
So remember, it’s not just the Red Sox you’re competition against, there’s other colored Sox, Angles, Rangers, and Rays to worry about in the hunt for an American League Championship.