Thursday, October 4, 2012

AL East Won. More to Do.

Last night, I was not in a good mood.  I had to do a lot of walking through fog, and it was so thick it was hard to breathe, and it gave me a headache.

I was not in a good mood.  I was in a mood to kick some ass.

More specifically, some Boston ass.  Both that of the lying outsourcing bastard, Willard Mitt Romney; and those of the lying cheating bastards, the Boston Red Sox.

Let me get the political part out of the way: Romney lied through his teeth all through the debate, and Obama did not, to my satisfaction, challenge the bastard.  However, to use a baseball analogy, after letting Romney foul off some changeups, Obama found his fastball. Romney needed a home run, but Obama held him to a single.  That might help Romney solidify his hold on wavering Arizona, North Carolina and Missouri, but didn't take back any State leaning toward Obama. Not all-important Ohio, and, with all the #MittLies about Medicare, certainly not the nearly-as-important Florida.  BO44 still has a hammerlock on 270 Electoral Votes. Barring a gigantic screwup on his part in the last 34 days, this ballgame is over.

Because Willard Mitt Romney is a liar, a bully, an outsourcer.  In other words, he's a conservative businessman, exactly the kind of man who crashed the economy in 2008.  And 2001.  And 1990.  And 1981.  And 1973.

Once upon a time he was "Moderate Mitt."
Now he's lying through every tooth.
There's nothing he can do.
A total eclipse of the truth.


Now... back to baseball.

*

The Yankees did not have to win last night.  The Oakland Athletics beat the Texas Rangers, to complete a comeback from 13 games behind and win the AL West.  And the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, thanks to 3 home runs from Evan "Desperate Housewife" Longoria, and the O's were eliminated from the AL East race.

When the news was flashed on the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium II, everybody in the stands got up and gave a standing ovation to the 2012 American League Eastern Division Champion New York Yankees.

This was the 48th time that the Yankees have finished first.  There were 29 such times in the old single-division AL, and in a span of just 44 years, from 1921 to 1964.  Since Divisional play began in 1969, they have done it 19 times, including 5 in 6 years from 1976 to 1981 and 13 times in the last 19 seasons, from 1994 to 2012.  (MLB doesn't count the teams that were in first place when the Strike of '94 hit as "Division Champions," but I do; after all, they were in first place when the season came to an end.  This also applied to the Chicago White Sox, the Texas Rangers, the Montreal Expos, the Cincinnati Reds and the Los Angeles Dodgers: As far as I'm concerned, they, too, were Division Champions in 1994.)

No, the Yankees didn't have to win last night.  But they did.  Boy, did they win.  They put an exclamation point on a season that saw them lead the AL East by 10 games on July 18, then fall into a flat-footed tie with the Orioles on September 4, and were still tied going into the games of October 1, but ended 1 game ahead at the conclusion of Game 162 on October 3, finishing with a record of 95-67.

I said that 93 wins is usually enough to win the AL East, because, starting in 1996, the first season we had both an uninterrupted 162-game schedule and the 3-Divisions-plus-Wild-Card setup, the teams that ended up finishing second won 92; ergo, 92 + 1 = 93 wins, enough to win the AL East.  I also checked back on the full seasons going back to the start of Divisional play in 1969, and, again, 92 wins was the average for teams finishing second, so 93 was, on the average, enough to win the Division.  This time, the Orioles won 93, so the Yankees needed 94.  But they got 95, more than any team in the AL.  (The A's won 94.  In the NL, the Washington Nationals won 98, and the Cincinnati Reds won 97.)

As for the Yankees' game: Hiroki Kuroda started, and went 7 innings, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks.  Strong and consistent, like he'd been all season long (16-11).

The Sox also started a Japanese pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka.  But Dice-K, who was good in 2007 and great in 2008 but got hurt in 2009 and hasn't been the same since, had absolutely nothing (1-7).  If this game were a Presidential debate, Dice-K would have been Rick Perry.  The Yankees knocked him out of the box in the 3rd inning.  He might pitch in the major leagues again, but this was almost certainly the last time he will do so in a Boston uniform.

The Yankees scored 3 in the 2nd, 2 in the 3rd, 2 each in the 5th and the 6th, and 5 in the 7th.  Home runs? There were 2 each by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano.  Robbie had went 4-for-4 and had 6 RBIs, Grandy had 4.  Alex Rodriguez reached base 4 times, with 2 singles and 2 walks.  Ichiro Suzuki had 2 RBIs.  Every Yankee starter reached base, and all got a hit except for Mark Teixeira, who did draw a walk.

Final score: Yankees 14, Red Sox 2.

Three straight! We swept The Scum, three straight! We swept The Scum, three straight! We swept The Scum, three straight! 

More importantly: Ballgame over! American League Eastern Division over! Yankees win! Theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win!

*

We get the top seed in the AL Playoffs.  We still don't know who we'll play in the AL Divisional Series, and we won't know until late tomorrow night: The AL Wild Card play-in game between Baltimore and Texas, in Arlington, starts at 8:30 PM (7:30 Central).  The NL play-in game is at 5:00, St. Louis at Atlanta.

If Baltimore wins the play-in game, they play Oakland in the Division Series and we play Detroit; if Texas wins the play-in game, we play them, and the other series is Oakland vs. Detroit.

Game 1, for the Yankees, will be Sunday, away to either Detroit or Texas.  Game 2 on Monday.  Then a travel day, and home for Game 3 on Wednesday.  If necessary, Game 4 will be on Thursday and Game 5 on Friday, also at YS2.

In the end, it doesn't matter who the Yankees play: We gotta play whoever we gotta play.  (Yeah, I know, that sounds like a Yogi-ism.) But the Tigers eliminated us from the postseason last year, and the Rangers the year before that.  So, either way, there's some unfinished business to take care of.

The Yankee pitching rotation for the ALDS has not yet been set.  Joe Girardi may tailor it to the opponent, instead of just throwing whoever it is whose turn it is out there on the appropriate day.  I suspect, though, that it'll be CC Sabathia in Game 1, Kuroda in Game 2, Phil Hughes in Game 3, Andy Pettitte in Game 4, and CC again in Game 5.  You definitely want your best guy out there for a win-or-go-home game.

*

Kuroda and Hughes each won 16 games.  CC won 15.  Ivan Nova won 12.  The other spot in the rotation won 16: Pettitte 5, Freddy Garcia 7 and David Phelps 4.

Ichiro, not a Yankee the entire season, batted .322 at age 39.  Derek Jeter batted .316 at 38.  Cano batted .313.

Granderson hit 43 home runs -- 1 behind League leader Miguel Cabrera.  (I'll have something on him and the Triple Crown -- if not later today, then perhaps over the weekend.) Cano hit 33, Teix and Nick Swisher 24 each, Russell Martin 21 (in spite of a batting average that topped out at a mere .211, though his slugging percentage was .403), Raul Ibanez hit 19 (at age 40), A-Rod hit 18, Eric Chavez hit 16, Jeter hit 15 (at 38), and Andruw Jones his 14).

Keep in mind, some of those guys were in part-time roles.  The Yankees essentially got 34 home runs from their 3rd basemen (38 if you count Jayson Nix), 31 from their right fielders and 28 from their left fielders (if you split Jones' homers in half, between left and right, and add Chris Dickerson's 2 to left).

Overall, the Yankees hit 245 home runs.  For comparison's sake, the 2009 Yankees hit 244, which broke the team record of 240 set in 1961, the year of Roger Maris' 61 and Mickey Mantle's 54.

Only 1 Yankee, Granderson, had at least 100 RBIs (106), but Cano had 94, Swish had 93, and Teix had 84 despite being hurt for essentially the last quarter of the season.

Most amazingly, the Yankees won 95 games, and, due to injury, Mariano Rivera was only there to save 5 of them.  Rafael Soriano, though he messed up a few times, saved... appropriately enough... 42.  Save opportunities, 42 out of 46.  The rest of the bullpen was frequently frustrating, but, ultimately, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, and even Sweaty Freddy Garcia did enough.

Even Derek Lowe, given up for dead by the rest of baseball, made a contribution, and he now has a shot at joining a select group of players who've won World Series with both the Red Sox and the Yankees: Babe Ruth, Bullet Joe Bush, Sad Sam Jones, Carl Mays, Herb Pennock, Wally Schang, Everett Scott, Jumpin' Joe Dugan, Johnny Damon, Ramiro Mendoza and Eric Hinske.  Note, though, that only the last 3 have done it since 1932, and only they have achieved the feat -- that is, having won his first with the second club -- since 1923.

In essence, you win as a team, and you lose as a team, and, in 2012, the Yankees won the AL East as a team.

You can argue that Jeter, Granderson, Cano, Sabathia, or even Ibanez was the most valuable player (capitalized or not) in the AL.  None of them will win it -- because the Yankees needed all of them to come through.  All of them did.  That's what championship teams do.

That's what the New York Yankees do.

95 wins down.  11 to go.  More to do.  Bring the Commissioner's Trophy (the one with the flagpoles that goes to the winner of the World Series) back to The Bronx, where it belongs.  Come on you Pinstripes!

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