Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Last Night of The Yankee Dynasty...

...is a great book by now-ESPN writer Buster Olney.

It focused on Game 7 of the 2001 World Series -- then-Diamondbacks fireball pitcher Randy Johnson pitched in relief to keep the three-time defending champion Yankees to a 2-1 lead. Bombers ace reliever Mariano Rivera made a critical throwing error and then gave up the game-winning -- and series-ending -- hit to Luis Gonzalez.

That night ended a run of four world championships in five years for the winningest sports franchise in history. The New York Yankees have never been the same. A dynasty that had been built around a core group of Yankee minor league system product -- Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams -- plus appropriate role players (Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill) began to fray. Brosius and O'Neill retired. Martinez wasn't re-signed as a free-agent, replaced instead by slugger (and, later discovered, steroid user) Jason Giambi.

Last night was the true end of the Joe Torre Yankee Dynasty. The
New York Yankees lost the American League Division Series to the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim). It is now only too clear that, "The glory years are long gone, fading deeper into memory each fall. The Yankees spoiled themselves, their fans and their principal owner by winning four championships in five seasons through 2000. Now, they have gone five years without one."

In 2003, the Yankees made it back to the World Series -- only to lose in six games to the Florida Marlins. In 2004, they lost a seven-game American League Championship Series to the hated Boston Red Sox (blowing a three games to none lead in the process). This year, it is the division series. This is truly the end of the Yankee dynasty. It is difficult to imagine Torre coming back. Should he? Of course. Bobby Cox has managed to win 14 consecutive division titles as manager of the Atlanta Braves. The team has only won one World Series -- 1995 -- during that time. Cox doesn't have to worry about his job status.

But this is the New York Yankees and owner George Steinbrenner we're talking about here. He paid $200 million (and subsidized several money-losing MLB teams in the process). Considering that this was a guy who fired managers as soon as breathe during the '70s and '80s, the fact Steinbrenner has kept Torre for 10 seasons is a testament to Torre's success during the first five years. Frankly, it's hard to believe that Torre would have stayed even if he had won it again.

But, truly, the ninth inning tonight was a perfect microcosm of why the old ('96-'01) Yankees were championship caliber, even if they didn't win every single one of those years. With the Angels up 5-3, the Yankees got three hits in the inning. Yet they didn't score. Why? Because, between a Derek Jeter single and consecutive hits by Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi was perfect (if you're an Angels fan) double-play ball hit by Alex Rodriguez.

If Jeter and Rivera were the face of the championship run. Rodriguez and, ironically, Randy Johnson (and Kevin Brown) are the faces of the not-quite-championship years. Rodriguez had 130 runs batted in during the regular season -- and none during the division series. His error in Game 2 helped cost the team the game. Another close play involving Rodriguez gave the Angels an extra out (yes, the umpire blew the play, but it shouldn't have been that close). Last year, A-Rod was called out after trying to slap a ball out of a Red Sox fielder's glove.

It's no surprise how the Yankees won Game 4. Derek Jeter drove Jorge Posada in with a bouncer to third base. Jeter came up with the needed play -- and Posada helped make it happen, just getting in under Angels catcher Bennie Molina's tag. The play was reminiscent -- in a reverse way, of Jeter's amazing run, catch and toss-to-Posada-to-throw-out Jeremy Giambi in the '01 playoffs with the Oakland A's. The old Yankees were always in the right place at the right time to do the right thing to win. The 'new', overpriced, imported Yankees either blow up or somehow manage to demonstrate that they don't have quite the je ne sais pas to make the play to win the must-win game of the year.

Final irony: The critical play of the game was when the Angels Adam Kennedy hit a Mike Mussina pitch to the deepest part of centerfield. Yankee outfielders Sheffield and Bubba Crosby crashed into each other and the wall in trying to get the ball. If either had gotten there, they would have recorded the final out. Arriving simultaneously, the ball bounced off of Sheffield's arm and went for a triple, scoring two runs.

Crosby was in the game because Torre, rightly, felt that he was a better defensive player than the aging Bernie Williams -- he would be able to get to more balls. Well, be careful what you ask for: Had Williams been playing, he wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the ball; Sheffield would have had an unencumbered play for the ball. He would have caught it and the Yankees would have gotten out of the inning with the lead.

These are the type of blind-luck plays that would have gone the Yankees way...back in the days of the dynasty.

Bookmark and Share

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Web raggedthots.blogspot.com
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Technorati search
Search Now:
Amazon Logo
  •  RSS
  • Add to My AOL
  • Powered by FeedBurner
  • Add to Google Reader or Homepage
  • Subscribe in Bloglines
  • Share on Facebook