Derek Jeter drove Curt Schilling's first offering off the green monster in the first inning yesterday. But Manny Ramirez expertly fielded the ball and threw Jeter out at second base. It was a sign that it wouldn't be the Yankees' day. Jeter bruised his right knee sliding into the bag and was removed from the game in the fourth inning. The Bombers actually had three hits in the first but weren't able to score. Schilling wasn't dazzling but he was effective enough, especially after this teammates started beating Jaret Wright and company around but good. By the middle innings the win didn't much matter to the Home Nine after the results of the White Sox win over the Indians were posted. Toward the end of the game, there were scrubinies on the field for both sides as the Sox pounded the Yanks, 10-1 in the regular season finale.
Sure, with the kind of dough they spend you'd expect nothing less. Yet the most infuriating aspect of Yankee culture these days is the sense of entitlement that surrounds the team--from the owner down to many of the fans. What's lost in being seduced by this atmosphere of high (win-or-else) expectations, is often a genuine appreciation of just how hard it is to make the playoffs year-after-year. Joe Torre was not choked up and crying for nothing on Saturday evening. However, considering how disastrous their off-season was--some contend that it was the worst in the team's storied history--and how poorly they played to begin the season, it is some accomplishment that they are still playing in October. Virtual no-names like Chien-Ming Wang, Robinson Cano, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon played vital roles. So did veterans did Jason Giambi and Randy Johnson and Flash Gordon. Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield and Derek Jeter all had the kind of All-Star seasons we've come to expect from them. And Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez were simply brilliant.
When Rivera was hurt in 2002 I began to count the days. Who knew how much longer he'd last? How long can a stopper remain elite? Well, his last three seasons are three of the best he's ever had in his career. After a rough first couple of games against the Red Sox, where everybody and his uncle had a theory about what was wrong with him and what he needed to do to rebound, Rivera was dominant for the rest of the summer. Rodriguez was rock-steady at third base, putting up perhaps the most impressive season at that position that anyone has seen since the days of the great Mike Schmidt and George Brett. His defense wasn't great early in the year, but by the end of the season, he proved himself to be a Gold Glove caliber fielder. Offensively, he was outstanding, and amazingly even--look at the splits, month-by-month the guy was $ in the bank.
Yes indeed, there were many frustrating moments this year, but there is also a lot to be thankful for as well. The Yanks have made their fans proud. We are blessed to root for such a successful organization. Let's hope they keep playing well and who knows what could happen?