Stop handing the New York Yankees the World Series. The 2009 team are not winning their 27th championship this year. In fact, as of press time, they have not even made it into the World Series, and the Los Angeles Angels are still in it to win it. ESPN.com is already writing stories about how Pedro Martinez will pitch against the Yankees in Game Two. But couldn’t Pedro Martinez pitch to Vladimir Guerrero and the Angels? Martinez was possibly the most dominant pitcher in Montreal Expos history, and Guerrero the greatest hitter. The loss of both players was perhaps the final nails in the Expos’ coffin. But this is not a sad lament about a former baseball team. This is about how the Yankees, the Evil Empire, will continue their streak of not winning the World Series. Even if they defeat the Angels, this team is not built like a winner.
There are many stories about how the Yankees’ chemistry improved when they picked up “character guys,” or “clubhouse guys” like C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Nick Swisher. Sabathia has pitched very well this off-season, even though the Milwaukee Brewers overused him last year, and starting on short rest has not hurt his health—so far. C.C.’s a big guy, which may allow him to go to the well, but soon that well’s going to run dry. Burnett seems to be more famous for his contracts and his antics than any of his pitching performances. Sure, Burnett has pitched great games, but can he do so in the pressure of the postseason? Perhaps it is no surprise that the Marlins won the World Series in 2003 with Burnett on the roster, because A.J. was hurt the whole year. Swisher has always seemed like one of those happy-go-lucky players that stoic teams like the Yankees seemed to be lacking. But how much fun can a player be when he is hitting less than .100 for the postseason? No more smiles, Swish?
The Yankees’ success this postseason seems to be measured in part by the two hitters in the middle of their lineup. Mark Teixeira was the Yankees’ premiere off-season acquisition, bigger even than Burnett and Sabathia But in the postseason, one bad pitch from Darren Oliver is all that stood between Teixeira and a complete lack of production, as Teixeira drove that pitch for a three run double in Game 5. Teixeira hit a few home runs during the regular season at the new Yankees Stadium, but didn’t everybody? It seems unlikely that Teixeira will be leaving his mark in New York.
Of course, the man hitting behind Tex in the order has certainly made a splash this postseason. Yet there must a hidden catch marking Alex Rodriguez’s transformation from A-Rod (and A-Fraud) to A-God. From allegations of sign-stealing and steroid abuse, to repeated shots of new girlfriend Kate Hudson trying to look anonymous in the crowd, there is the lingering sense that A-Rod is going to fail when he is needed most. Perhaps if the Yankees do make it to the final and then lose, Rodriguez and Hudson can star together in a movie based on real events entitled How to Lose a World Series in Ten Days. It couldn’t be any worse than their other performances.
Take your guys that have won it before, your Jeter, your Posada, your Mariano Rivera, your former villain Johnny Damon, and all of the other Yankees that have come through in the past, and think back to last year. The Yankees didn’t even make it into the playoffs. If (and when) they fail to win it all this year, shouldn’t this season still be considered a success?