Sunday, October 7, 2012

ALDS Preview: Why I am concerned -- and not concerned -- about the Yankees in this series

As infuriating as the Yankees blowing a 10-game lead in the American League East was, one thing it did do was get the Yanks to focus again. There wasn't going to be any coasting and saving players for October, like we've seen in previous years. Instead, the Yankees got their groove back and won the division. They played some of their best baseball of the season down the stretch, and earned that AL East title on the last day of the year.

The other thing is that the Baltimore Orioles finally got taken seriously by the Yanks -- and their fans. For most of the year, it seemed like the O's were going to fade. It didn't seem possible that they could really contend for the whole year. A few times in the recent past, most notably when Lee Mazzilli was manager, Baltimore looked great in April and May, but faded as the summer heated up. But this year, they never faded, and finished with just one fewer loss than the Yanks. Then they beat the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers in that one-game playoff.

Anyhow, this Yankees-Orioles matchup is intriguing, and more than a little nerve-wracking. Even if you are rooting for the Yankees, as I am, you can't help but admire what Buck Showalter has done. Hats off to him for this season. If the Yankees weren't in it, I would root for the Orioles to go all the way.

The Orioles are such a different franchise than they were just two-and-a-half years ago. Squawker Jon and I went down to Baltimore in June 2010 to see the Orioles play the Yankees, and then the Mets, due to a quirk in scheduling. Here is what I wrote then:
Oriole Park at Camden Yards should really be called "Yankee Park at Camden Yards" when the Bombers are in town. I've never seen a game where the home crowd is in the minority. I knew a lot of Yankees fans came down for the games, but it really is Yankee Stadium South here. And what I didn't know is how the vendors outside cater to the Yankee fans, with tons of Yankee hats, t-shirts, and other memorabilia items outside the park. Even in the ballpark you can buy a Yankee hat and a Derek Jeter t-shirt. (You can't buy any Nationals gear, though. Forget getting a Stephen Strasburg shirt.)
But that was B.S. -- Before Showalter. He took over later that summer, and turned around the franchise. It really is remarkable, given that the O's aren't exactly laden with great pitching, or any real superstars.

And I hope that the Yanks take this series seriously. I think they are. They can't be complacent, as I think they've been at times in the postseason, and think that all they need to do to beat the Orioles is throw their gloves on the field. Baltimore is a force to be reckoned with, and I hope that the Yanks come out fighting tonight. Yankees in 5.

What do you think? Tell us about it!


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