2019 N.Y. Yankees: R.I.P.?
Saturday, October 19, 2019
I started writing this on Friday evening, before Game 5 between my beloved New York Yankees and the Astros of Houston at the Big Ballpark. Despite the Yankees victory (4-1) on Friday night, behind a great performance from James Paxton, I am not optimistic about taking two games in Houston over this weekend. And not just because of the team’s performance in their three losses (which was demonstrably miserable). Realistically looking at our roster --- and the pitching staff, in particular --- this team is not “built to win” a World Series. In fact, it is not built to make it to the World Series. The old adage “Great pitching beats great hitting” has been proven time and again --- and we are watching that in both leagues right now. Despite the Kansas City Royals 2016 championship, carried by their bullpen and featuring a relatively undistinguished starting rotation, strong starting pitching is still the key to winning the World Series.
The Washington Nationals, with three stud pitchers (Strasburg, Scherzer, Corbin) and the Astros (with Verlander, Cole, and Greinke) will almost surely be this year’s World Series opponents --- and it should be a great one (though I’ll probably only watch an inning here and an inning there, if the Yanks are out of it). Great pitching beats great hitting. Last year the Astros lost the ALCS because they ran into the Boston Red Sox buzz saw offense combined with two Cy Young Award winning pitchers (David Price, Rick Porcello) and a third perennial Cy Young candidate (Chris Sale). And the Astros also had two Cy Young winners (Verlander and Keuchel) as well as this year’s probable winner, Gerrit Cole.
The last time the Yankees won the World Series, in 2009, they had (the young) C.C. Sabathia, Andy Petitte (best postseason starter ever?), and A.J. Burnett (not great, but more than fine as a third starter). They beat the Phillies in six games (the Phillies, by the way, had Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, and rookie-of-the year candidate, J.A.Happ). And this season? James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino --- none of whom is a legitimate #1 Starter a la Verlander, Scherzer (former Detroit Tiger teammates), Strasburg, or Cole. The point here is simple: without stellar starting pitching, something the Yankees have struggled with all season, it is difficult to get to, much less win, the World Series. Despite my great respect for Brian Cashman, he has failed, rather spectacularly, in the area of Starting Pitching. Two years ago, he let Houston trade for Cole (because he would not consider giving up Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier --- and, yes, hindsight is 20-20 . . . but…..) and last winter he wouldn’t spend money for Corbin (probably this year’s version of A.J. Burnett --- who was 1-1 in the 2009 Series, btw).
Tonight will be a bullpen game for both teams and, with luck, the Yankees will prevail, as they did in Game One in Houston, setting up a Gerrit Cole/Luis Severino showdown in Minute Maid Park on Sunday night. There’s nothing like a Game Seven in a League Championship Series but, at least on paper, the odds are definitely in Houston’s favor (Cole hasn’t lost a game since June or July!). As a diehard fan, I’m still hoping against hope and root/root/rooting for my home team. Should the Yankees pull off the upset/miracle (rather than repeating their 2017 7th game ALCS loss) they then will have to face the Nationals (and their pitchers!) --- but they would have Home Field Advantage (which, of course, they squandered in this Houston series by losing the second game in extra innings, as I see it). Stranger things have happened, greater upsets have occurred but, as they say, that’s why they play the games.
And maybe this winter Cashman will finally nail down some topflight, front line starting pitching.