Baltimore Orioles (93-69) at New York Yankees (95-67)
The two teams that battled for the AL East over 162 games now face each other for five to see who advances to the ALCS. Because that’s fair. The teams split the season series 9-9, with Baltimore outscoring New York by two in those games (the Orioles did end the season with a positive run differential, for those of you keeping track). The Orioles are this year’s Cinderella team, making the postseason for the first time since 1997, which was also the last time they had a winning record. The Yankees, meanwhile, are in their 28th postseason series since that year.
Baltimore’s offense this year was all about the home run. The Orioles don’t walk much—11th in the league in OBP—or hit for a very high average—10th. They are last in stolen bases and 10th in hits. On top of that, their best contact hitter, Nick Markakis, broke his thumb in a totally innocent and not at all suspicious accident and is still out for a few more weeks. But the Orioles were second in the league in home runs, and there are power threats littered throughout the lineup. From Mark Reynolds to Matt Wieters to J.J. Hardy to Chris Davis to Adam Jones—who had a breakout season this year—nearly everyone is a threat to hit it out. Facing the Yankees, who play in a home run haven and trot out pitchers with a tendency to give up the long ball, that will obviously come up. Continue reading »
“The greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” —JFK
As Derek Jeter is poised to make history this weekend, his career is in a very unusual place. On the one hand, he is standing on the cusp of history, poised to become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits. On the other hand, he is following up 2010, the worst season of his career, with an even worse year. The Yankees played their best stretch of baseball with him on the DL, leading some to wonder if the team is better off without him. And he remains under contract through at least 2013.
So why release a biography of Jeter now, at such an uncertain crossroads in his career? Writing a biography of Jeter that culminates in the 2009 season—squeezing his dreadful ’10 and his contentious contract negotiations this off-season into the epilogue—is like writing a biography of Julius Caesar that ends on March 14th.
Ian O’Connor’s new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter, is bound to be incomplete. So why did he write it? It seems clear that the primary motive O’Connor had for writing this book was not to bring new light to Jeter’s career, but to enhance the myths already surrounding it. The Captain is, above all else, an exercise in mythmaking. Continue reading »
This is a question that has been on my mind since Tim undertook his massive investigation of the 1999 NLCS last week.
The seven-game playoff series (we’re not even going to talk about the atrocious five-game divisional format) is really one of the best things about sportswhen it unfolds right. It takes the highs and lows of a great game and stretches them over a week and a half. Rooting for a team involved a great series, as Tim can attest, essentially consumes your life for those days. You’re either riding a high from a great win, resentful and angry at the world after a bad loss, or anxiously awaiting an upcoming match-up. The best series have the dramatic arc of a great novel.
I’ve been thinking about this question because I’ve been wondering if the 2009 ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was a Great Series. Superficially, it looks like one: two extra-inning, walk-off games, questionable managerial decisions, close contests in five out of six games. If not for inexplicable errors by Howie Kendrick and Scott Kazmir in Game 6, four of the six games would have been decided by one run. Continue reading »
Sam Borden raises a question that is quietly sneaking up on the Yankees: what is to be done about Derek Jeter’s contract? His 10-year, $189 million contract expires after next season, when he will be 36 years old. What do you pay an aging shortstop, who just might be the most popular player in your team’s history?
It’s quite the conundrum, as Borden points out: “Normally, you might be inclined to offer two years, $20 million for a high-end shortstop entering his 36- and 37-year-old seasons. Do that here and you’ll probably be laughed out of the room.” Continue reading »