Today from Tony DeMarco, a NBCSports.com contributor -
The New York Yankees’ postseason fate has come down to a weekend in Arlington, Texas. Truth is, the only apparent advantage they have is in terms of payroll.
Not only do they have to win two more in a row; the second one will come against Cliff Lee, who completely dominated them in Game 3 in the midst of his historic postseason run.
Five games into this American League Championship Series, the Yankees have been outscored 32-18 — 25-5 in a stretch of three consecutive losses — out-hit .316 to .218, and left behind in the running game, nine stolen bases to two.
Even after the Yankees’ Game 5 victory that sent the series back to Texas, the Rangers’ trip to the Bronx could only be termed a success. They did exactly what they needed to do by winning two of three, stripping away a long-held Yankees’ postseason advantage.
In fact, it was hard to tell what was more alarming — the results on the field, or the change in fan base — read: corporate crowd that bailed early on back-to-back nights as the Yankees were embarrassed in Games 3 and 4.
But a sense of vulnerability also has crept in during this series. The Yankees are operating on borrowed time — every look at the more-athletic and aggressive team in the other dugout has to tell them that.
So no matter what happens this weekend, and the rest of this postseason, the game’s most-successful franchise finds itself in a pivotal transition phase, the impact of which can’t be understated.
It took a decade to work through the transition that followed the 1996-2000 run of four titles. And this time, we’re talking about legendary icons being involved:
The passing of George Steinbrenner and handing over of the team to his sons; the creeping-ever-closer ends for future first-ballot Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, plus Cooperstown maybes Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
Last winter goes down as a failure for general manager Brian Cashman. Coming off the club’s first title since 2000, Cashman chose to tweak, and for the most part failed at that.
He dealt for Javier Vazquez and signed Nick Johnson, and neither made it to the postseason. Curtis Granderson had a just-OK year, and that deal cost Austin Jackson, who might be the AL Rookie of the Year.
It’s going to take a much more aggressive and bold approach this off-season. It’s going to take more than tweaking for the 2011 Yankees to have a legitimate shot at another championship.
Are the Yankees in a “pivotal transition phase” as DeMarco states here? Well, if not, they’re getting close to it. The Core Four ain’t getting any younger. A-Rod is aging as well. Maybe Tex too – sorta/kinda? And, an outfield of Gardner, Granderson and Swisher, while nice, lacks the production that would make up for what the Yankees used to get from other places (which put them ahead of the league in those positions). Hughes still needs to improve his consistency. And, Burnett…well…do I have to say it?
So, maybe DeMarco is right here. What do you think?