Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yankees prove all the doubters wrong

The New York Yankees just won the American League East division title, proving that pre-season predictions mean absolutely nothing.

Before the start of the 2011 baseball season, many “experts” handed the AL division crown to the Boston Red Sox. Why? Because they had a good offseason, trading for young superstar Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent Carl Crawford. In contrast, the Yankees were jilted by Cliff Lee, who took less money to join the Philadelphia Phillies’ super rotation. Brian Cashman’s response to that rejection was to sign Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Though Cashman might still secretly wish Lee took the pile of dough the Yankees were offering him, he couldn’t be happier with the performances of Colon and Garcia, who deserve a lot of credit for helping to keep the Yankees rotation from falling apart.

What makes the Yankees ascension to the AL East division throne so impressive is the multitude of injuries and the way other players stepped up to fill the voids. Phil Hughes was projected as the #2 starter, but spent most of the first half on the disabled list with inflammation in that valuable pitching arm. But up stepped Ivan Nova, a candidate for the fifth starter spot who forced his way into the Rookie of the Year debate by unexpectedly going 16-4 with a 3.62 ERA in baseball’s toughest division. The Yankees also survived multiple injuries to Alex Rodriguez, their cleanup hitter who has been MIA for most of the second half, and a calf injury that sidelined their captain Derek Jeter, though that was probably a blessing in disguise as Jeter has been on fire since his return.

It’s like Mariano Rivera said yesterday, the Yankees overcame a lot of adversity to get where they are. Calling 2011 a challenging year would be a major understatement. But they never felt sorry for themselves or took their eyes off the prize.

However, the Yankees know this is merely a first step. Next on the agenda for Joe Girardi & Co is securing home-field advantage through the American League playoffs while at the same time resting his regulars during the last week of the season. Thanks to the early division clinch, Girardi can be very judicious in prepping his team for the postseason.

With the playoffs will come more doubts from the “experts.” Some will say that the Yankees will not survive October with their makeshift rotation, that there are too many questions about starters not named CC Sabathia. I say it’s a chance for the Yankees to once again prove all the doubters wrong. Bring it on!

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