There's an old T-shirt you'll see in New England that declares, "My two favorite teams are the Red Sox and whoever's playing the Yankees." Those are words I live by. But for this series, I actually have a genuine interest and connection to these Tigers, so this was so much more than just rooting for the Yanks to go down in flames...
I moved here to Michigan when the Tigers sucked. Sucked hard. But I still followed this team fairly closely. More closely than the Sox over the last year or two simply because I listen to most of the games on the radio. I've followed these young players as they've come up. And this season, until the last month, was one of the most exciting baseball seasons I can remember. It's an extremely likeable team. A gorgeous ballpark. And there are real Tiger fans here in Michigan. They've waited a long-ass time for this, and happy to be here to be part of it.
Going in, the way the two teams were playing, I didn't give the Tigers much of a chance. I thought my boy Nate Robertson might steal one, and then the Yanks would get pissed and steamroll. After game one, I was worried about a sweep. Should-be ROY Verlander was gutty in the rainout game, and the bad-ass bullpen finished the job.
I'll confess, Kenny Rogers scared the shit out of me for Game three, but he shocked me along with everyone else. He gave the most dominating pitching performance I've seen against the Yankees since Pedro's 17K one-hitter. Rogers made them look positively silly. He somehow came up with a fastball in the 90s to go with his usual slop. He was blowing guys away. Talk about redemption for Rogers. I can only imagine the smack the Vinnies in New York were talking going into that game. Rogers answered that.
After that game, I knew the Yanks were done. And, man, did I smile today when I saw that A-Rod was hitting in the 8-hole. Panic in Detroit, indeed.
After I filled my yard with cars for the Michigan/Michigan State game, I came inside to park myself on the couch. Watching Bonderman mow down the first six hitters it was clear he was on, and this "lineup for the ages" was checked out. In the 4th inning, Bonderman had thrown only 36 pitches, 30 for strikes. Damon, Jeter and Abreu alone often see that many pitches in any given inning. I actually started to think Bonderman was going to throw a no-hitter. That's how feeble the Yanks looked.
Good pitching does indeed stop good hitting.
A couple things...FOX continued to hype this Yankees team as one of, if not THE greatest lineup in history. If that's true, Jeter does not deserve the MVP. Even with the loss of Sheffield and Matsui. Sorry, they still had five guys score a hundred runs. Jeter is an MVP caliber player to be sure, and this may have been his best season, but I still think Joe Mauer deserves it more. He hits in a lineup with one other big stick. He won the batting crown over Jeter. People talk about the grind of Jeter playing short. Mauer plays catcher. Shortstop is a physical and mental vacation compared to catching. Sorry, Mr. "Driven", but you will still walk straight into Cooperstown with plenty of hardware and a fresh, citrus-y scent. Be satisfied with the couple Gold Gloves you don't deserve, your four rings (and not counting) and your ROY trophy.
That said, Jeter and Posada are the only guys who showed up in this Series. New York is going to be killing A-Rod, and deservedly so. But everyone else sucked too. Randy Johnson and Mussina did not earn their combined $35-Mil this week. The pen is just brutal, and the defense was awful.
Next year, I will be shocked if A-Rod is in pinstripes. He was 1-for-the Series and failed in spectacular fashion. Sriking out with the bases loaded, grounding into an almost-DP today when the Yanks had a chance to get back into the game. He tossed in an E to go with his collar. He was terrible. I do not think he can ever redeem himself in that City. If he comes back, they will be selling A-Rod jerseys with ".071" on the back.
As for my adopted Tigers? Bring on the A's.
UPDATE: Seth Mnookin piles on ... Go here to gloat ... Nomar failed to have his Kirk Gibson moment—Mets advance. ... Surviving Grady
SECOND UPDATE: Chad Finn weighs in, and really calls Jeter out:
It's hard to pin any of this on Teflon Jeter, who at least looks like he sincerely gives a damn and always plays his ass off 'til the last drop . . . but at some point, doesn't all the talk about the "businesslike" clubhouse and the 25 players, 25 private planes mentality reflect a negative light on the Yankees' captain? Rather than unifying this team, in tough times he always seems to go out of his way to make the point that this is a "different group" than the 4-time champs, almost as if he's disingenuously distancing himself from the mess. He's a wonderful player, but the more I see, the more I believe his leadership is entirely by example - at best.
Here's a great column from ther Bergen (NJ) Record that lays out the A-rod sitch perfectly. [via TATB] ... Torre to pay the ultimate price? ... This is cool: Nate Robertson, Cliff Floyd and Barry Zito have playoff blogs ... Oh, and don't forget these: