As I sat in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium on Friday night and watched Game 5, all I kept thinking about was how unbelievably thin the margin of quality was between the Orioles and Yankees in 2012.
They played 23 times. New York won “the series” 12-games-to-11. I assume if they started another 7-game playoff series today, the Yankees would win that one, 4-games-to-3. It truly was “that close”.
Or was it?
Sure, the 5th and final game went right down to the final three outs for the Orioles, but a few things stood out over the last six days that clearly displayed the difference(s) between the two clubs.
Without sounding like I’m part of the TBS broadcast crew, let’s go ahead and give credit where credit is due for the victors.
Make no mistake about it, New York won the series because of one man: C.C. Sabathia.
It’s that simple. He beat the Orioles twice. The Yankees won three games total. That says it all.
Some players get paid 20 or 25 million dollars and put up a season or two worthy of that kind of production before starting to show cracks in the armor. Sabathia earns every penny of his $23 million salary. He’s a horse.
With all due respect to what turned out to be an Orioles strength in 2012 – starting pitching – the biggest reason why the Orioles will be on the golf course this Monday and the Yankees will be flying to Detroit is because New York has a true, legitimate #1 starter and the Baltimore team does not.
No disrespect to Jason Hammel. Or Wei-Yin Chen. Or Joe Saunders.
Those guys are decent major league starters. Good pitchers more often than not.
But they’re not even close to Sabathia.
And that’s the biggest reason why New York won the series. Sabathia beat us. And, I guess, for $23 million a year, he probably should beat us.
Lesson learned for the Orioles moving forward: If you want to be a champion, especially coming out of the American League East, you need to spend big money on a #1 starter. Or Dylan Bundy better wind up being awfully freakin’ good someday down the road.
The play Derek Jeter made in the 8th inning of Game 5 should be the one they show on a continuous video loop in Cooperstown when his bust gets bolted into place sometime around 2020.
He’s no longer even close to the best shortstop in baseball, but when he needed to make a difficult play – with the game and perhaps his team’s season on the line – #2 moved gracefully to the top of the infield grass and made one of the most stylish plays of the year to nip J.J. Hardy at first on the slow chopper that snuffed out the Birds’ 8th inning rally.
If Jeter doesn’t come up with that play, Lord only knows what kind of inning the Orioles wind up producing. I might be sitting in a coffee shop in Detroit right now getting ready for Game 1 of the ALCS between the Birds and Tigers. That play from Jeter was a monster.
The final piece of bragging I’ll do on the Yankees centers on Joe Girardi. Because he manages the Yankees, everything he does gets magnified x 100. He has his detractors, as nearly all managers do, but Girardi had a spectacular series, aided greatly by the fact that his team swept Boston at season’s end to help give his aging roster a rest and set up the possibility of having Sabathia pitch twice if the series went five games.
I don’t think it’s fair to say Girardi “out-managed” Buck Showalter in the five games. Buck made nearly all the right moves as well, particularly with his stellar use of the bullpen. But Girardi got an “A” on his report card. The biggest move, of course, was his decision to sit Alex Rodriguez for Game 5. I heard lots of Yankee fans on Friday night bemoaning the fact that Girardi sat A-Rod, but it was the right call. The $30 million man was making Chris Davis look like Babe Ruth. And it was clearly getting to him. So Girardi did the right thing, as tough it was. He went with his “best line-up” for Game 5. That’s what you do when you want to win. We might not ever know if Sabathia bucked Girardi late in Game 5 or whether the skipper himself decided C.C. was going to pitch the whole night, win or lose, but the manager won again when he his workhorse finished the game off with runners all over the place and the Orioles foaming at the mouth for one big hit in the 8th or 9th inning.
(Please see next page)