The 2011 MLB Playoffs

mlb-logo-90This special non-Wednesday Struming is about the Major League Baseball Playoffs which are now upon us. For any semi-serious baseball fan, the last hour of the regular season on Wednesday evening may have been one of the most exciting baseball hours in the history of the sport, and that’s not an exaggeration. As a Yankee fan I cheered the Orioles comeback and, despite my love for the Yankees, I was indifferent to the Yankees loss to Tampa (Ok, I was thrilled Scott Proctor with his 3+ WHIP was pitching in extra innings). The Yankees indirectly helped knock  Boston from the post-season. Boo-Hoo-Boston. There was no need for the Yankees to pitch Dave Robertson or Mariano Rivera to protect the Yankees lead in the 8th and 9th innings. They will be pitching on Friday evening—that’s far more important. So when the Yankees lost and Boston did as well, the Rays were in. Yeah!

Boston’s demise, while sweet, does not equate to the Yankees success however. I realize that there are many Yankees haters. Misguided though their feelings may be, I understand why it is easy to dislike the team which wins more than any other, with 27 World Championships in 40 Series appearances. The Yankees don’t even recognize their 13 pennant winners which fell short. How arrogant on their part, some feel.

The Red Sox operate as if they are in the same strata as the Bronx Bombers. They are not even close, except for opening their wallet almost as wide as the Yankees. Boston’s hubris is misplaced and their arrogance from their 2004 and 2007 successes is coming back to bite them in the ass. I still get a kick out of a an article earlier this year written by NESN senior editor Eric Ortiz (Big Papi’s little brother?) comparing the 2011 Red Sox to the 1927 Yankees, 2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History. A little over the top? You gotta laugh. Even the Yankees, while arrogant, do not compare any of their successful World Championship teams to their own 1927 team. They don’t need to.

The Red Sox collapse and the Braves demise in the NL, while epic, are now history.   

The playoffs begin tonight and the question of the day is, what can we expect? Exciting baseball for sure, but the results, obviously no one knows. Odds-makers make a Phillies-Yankees Series as the most likely outcome, with the Phillies the ultimate victors. Will it happen that way? Maybe, but that outcome is hardly a lock.

While I am a fan of the game in general, with a deep appreciation of baseball history, my interest is primarily focused on one team—the New York Yankees, who seek their 28th Championship. They are an excellent team, with a legitimate shot. However they are flawed (all 8 teams have weaknesses). So in the interest of objectivity here are 5 reasons why the Yankees will win Championship # 28, and also 5 reasons they won’t

5 Reasons why the Yankees will once again be World Champions:

1. Mariano Rivera–Doesn’t require any deeper explanation other than 42 playoff saves and a playoff WHIP of .77 (Walks plus hits per innings pitched)

2. Derek Jeter–Though in his latter baseball years, how can you not have confidence in a man who has built a career coming through in the clutch. His second half performance has been “Jeterian”.

3. CC—He’s a “horse” and I say that with respect. He gives the Yankees a real chance to win any time he pitches. And he rarely implodes. When he lets up hits or homers, he just plows through and perserveres

4. Dave Robertson—He has been so phenomenal. He now has the 1996 Mariano role when Mo set up Wettland, then the Yankees closer. No one has does it better since.

5. Granderson and Cano—The Grandy man can. Robinson Cano, don’t you know.  They both have had MVP-type years, though neither will win the MVP award. I suspect we’ll see top performances from these two in October.

However, in fairness, there’s at least an equal chance that the Yankees will fall short.

5 Reasons why the Yankees will fall short:

1. Starting pitching—CC has been a little less spectacular in the late season, Nova is a rookie, Freddie Garcia is a workman-like vet with modest stuff. AJ is often a disaster. No “4 Aces” in the Bronx

2. A-Rod– On any dimension, A-Rod has had a weak year. Statistically his historic 13-year streak of 30 Homers & 100 RBIs came to an end. It wasn’t even close. Injuries took 2 months of the regular season away. More importantly, A-Rod appears slower and certainly far more injury prone. And there are six years left on his contract. Are we already at the beginning of the end? How will that play out? It’s unlikely he will have the monster playoffs he had in 2009.

3. The Detroit Tigers—The Yankees could be eliminated within a week if Verlander and the Detroit Tigers erupt in the ALDS. Verlander is virtually lights out at the moment. It would not be a total upset if the Yankees went out early. (Bite my tongue)

4. Rafael Soriano—He was a stud for the Rays last year and the Yankees (over)paid him to be the 8th inning set up man, the role Robertson has now so well. I get nervous when I see him on the mound.

5. Injuries—That’s the same issue for any of the playoff teams. The Yankees could succeed even with an injury to one of the starting position players, but a pitching injury could spell curtains.

I’m thrilled to be seeing the Yankees in the Bronx on Saturday evening (game 2 of the ALDS) and hopefully in more games deeper into October. I do believe (or at least hope) they will once again be World Champions. And even if they do, they will not be as good as the 1927 Yankees. There would merely be one of 28 World Championship versions of the New York Yankees. OK by me.

Let the playoffs begin…..

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