Before I get into the media coverage, a couple of quick observations:
I’ve always wondered this from a strategic perspective: Why relegate a lockdown pitcher like Joba Chamberlain – or anyone, for that matter -- into a role where his greatest use is preserving a lead? If in the late innings, a manager is looking to keep his team within striking distance or prevent the margin from increasing, why plug in a guy who hasn’t proven he can get outs, even in mop-up duty? Joe Torre has done this habitually over the years, and aside from overuse of select arms, it’s a major reason he is so widely criticized for his bullpen management. The Yankees might have been able to position themselves for a rally on Sunday if Torre used Chamberlain into the ninth inning instead of Edwar Ramirez, whose demeanor is reminiscent of Glass Joe from Mike Tyson’s “Punch Out” and whose fastballs enjoy the wonders of air travel. There’s no guarantee Chamberlain would have tossed a scoreless ninth inning, but I like his odds better than Ramirez’s. Granted, a bad pitch by Andy Pettitte in the 7th, followed by the offense leaving runners in scoring position in the bottom half put the Yankees in that position, but a slight adjustment in bullpen management may have salvaged that series. At least it wouldn’t have rendered the bottom of the ninth moot.
It’s a relief to see the media focus on Alex Rodriguez restricted to baseball. If the Yankees do in fact reach the playoffs, he will be the most important bat in the lineup. As a baseball fan, I’d love to see him continue his barrage into the postseason. The look on Derek Jeter’s face following A-Rod’s upper-deck shot Tuesday night reflected many people’s reactions to what the third baseman is accomplishing. If he’s not a unanimous MVP choice, allowing the BBWAA to determine that award should be reconsidered. I’d say this even if I didn’t live in New York and see 160 + Yankee games per season.
Prior to the Yankees’ “tough stretch,” which featured series against the Indians, Angels, Tigers, Red Sox and Mariners, the Yankees had whittled their AL East deficit to four games and were still looking up in the wild-card race. Reporters, talkies and announcers alike noted that the three-week interlude would likely determine the Yankees’ fate, and for all intents and purposes, it has.
The inconsistency of the Yankees’ play for the past three weeks, which has directly led to their fluctuating playoff position, has made for interesting reading and analysis. When the going was good, the distance between the Yankees and the Red Sox and the longshot possibility of a 10th straight division title was mentioned in nearly every game story that followed a victory. Then the team tanked in Anaheim and Detroit and fell on its face against the Devil Rays in the same weekend a Red Sox rookie tossed a no-hitter, the division gap widened and the attention began to focus on the wild card.
In much of today’s newspaper coverage, the Red Sox barely garnered a mention, which is interesting. It’s as if the possibility of a comeback has been dismissed and a more realistic approach to the Yankees’ standing is being taken.
I don’t know about you, but I find this refreshing.