I really hope the Yankees win the ALDS this week, not just because I want to see them win the World Series, but because I'd also like to see them avenge what went down in the 2006 ALDS against th TIgers. There's some real unfinished business there, with the cruelest cuts self-inflicted. I rank it second to the 2004 ALCS as the playoff series in this era that angered me the most. Here's why.
Squawker Jon and I starting writing Subway Squawker in March 2006, with the idea of capturing the Yanks and the Mets when both of them were expected to make a run for it in the playoffs. Imagine my chagrin when the Mets actually made it to within a Yadier Molina home run of the World Series (more on that in a sec!), surpassing the Yankees in the postseason.
Arguably the biggest issue for the Yanks that year was that A-Rod, coming off an MVP season, was 1) having an "off year" for him: .290, 35 homers, 121 RBI and a .914 OPS, 2) getting thrown under the bus again and again by his manager and his captain. I think Torre was trying to get him to force his way off the team by making his life miserable. He certainly wasn't trying to get the most or best out of him. (An aside -- compare and contrast with the truly classy way Terry Francona stepped away from the Sox today, acknowledging that he failed with getting players to listen to him, and being genuinely broken up about the way the season ended. But I digress.)
Anyhow, that situation was brewing all summer, and it was obvious to me at the time what was going on, from the way Torre refused to tell the fans to stop booing Rodriguez to the way he blew up, instead of tamping down, every story brewing on Rodriguez, that Joe had a nasty agenda. But every time I pointed out how much Rodriguez was being undermined and gaslighted by Joe Torre, I would hear critical responses from readers, telling me I didn't know what was going on in the clubhouse. True, but I do know a little about human nature, and a lot about passive-aggressive phonies!
And the mainstream media wouldn't acknowledge the undermining, not even when Torre hooked up with his past and future ghostwriter Tom Verducci to orchestrate "The Loneliest Yankee" hit piece, set to run on the eve of the playoffs, just when Rodriguez was in the midst of a great September. Funny thing is, though, that years after the fact, Torre finally acknowledged in "The Yankee Years" that the clubhouse was divided. Duh!
Anyhow, I think that year that Torre wanted to make sure that Rodriguez would fail in the playoffs again, so A-Rod would be off the team, even if it meant sacrificing his team's October chances. First, he batted Rodriguez sixth in Game 1, even though A-Rod hadn't been in that role all year, just to make sure to give him more scrutiny.
Also, Torre's lack of preparation for that series was breathtaking. The team never took Kenny Rogers seriously, which haunted them in Game 3, and Torre let Jim Leyland flatter him with that "Murderers Row and Cano" nonsense, playing St. Joe like a fiddle. He also never asked for the umpire to check if Rogers was doctoring the ball, something Tony LaRussa did in the World Series.And don't forget the sight of Gary Sheffield at first base.
The Yanks did win Game 1 at home, but they never won again in that series, although they did lead in Game 2 before Mike Mussina blew that lead. Remember Mussina blaming the fact that the game was a day game, with a quieter atmosphere than it would have been if it hadn't been rained out the night before? Good grief.
Game 4 was the infamous day where Torre decided to hang the entire series on A-Rod's shoulders, scapegoating him by batting him eighth, and never telling him beforehand. Then, when the media hordes inevitably descended on Torre, he chastised them for not asking them about why he had also benched Jason Giambi. I thought what Torre did was one of the nastiest, most cowardly things I've ever seen in my life. He wasn't trying to win the game. He was trying to put the goat horns on A-Rod. And I wished that the Yankees would have fired him then and there for what he did.
Anyhow, Game 4 was the day of my cousin's wedding, so I fortunately missed seeing much of the carnage live, although I knew it was hopeless. I spent most of my cousin's wedding reception in a rage about the Yankees, capped off seeing the Mets' chanting about "Party in Queens, Funeral in the Bronx" on the TV at the banquet's room bar when the Mets clinched the NLDS.
I really hoped that Torre would be gone after that year, but the Yankees were stuck with that gold-plated phony another year. There was talk that the Yanks might get rid of him, but Steve Swindal didn't want to pay him without him managing. I said when the team brought Torre back that they would never win another playoff series until he was gone, and I was proven to be right.
Anyhow, I'd like to see the Yankees beat Detroit this year, and for A-Rod to have a huge series in October, as a little cosmic payback for the 2006 ALDS. In fact, that's my prediction -- A-Rod will have a big series, and the Yanks will win in four games.