Does Yankees' collapse spell the end for Torre?
No one ever expected this. The big, bad Bronx Bombers faced the fading Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. All the experts predicted a three-game Yankee sweep. Boy, were they wrong.
The Tigers had a great regular season and led both leagues in wins for most of the way. They had a double-digit lead in the AL Central Division until the last month. They only won 19 of their last 50 games and actually blew the division to the Minnesota Twins on the last day. A five-game losing streak (including three in the final series to the lowly Kansas City Royals) to close out the season had everyone figuring it would be a cake walk for the Yankees.
Judging by Game One, that seemed to be the script. The Bombers doubled up the Bengals 8-4, with long balls from Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter. Hey, even Alex Rodriguez had a base hit. At the time, who would have figured it would be his only one in the series? The $25 million dollar man ended up going 1 for 14 (.071) and failed to drive in a run for the second consecutive playoff series, dating back to 2005, when the Yankees were ousted by the Angels in the ALDS.
The Yankees blew a 3-1 lead in Game Two and the Tigers gained a split on the road with a 4-3 victory. The series changed gears to the Motor City, with Randy Johnson facing fellow southpaw Kenny Rogers. 'The Gambler' had never won a post-season game in his career and had an ERA over eight. The former Yankee seemed like just what the doctor ordered, but no one told him. Rogers easily out dueled The Big Unit, and dominated his ex-teammates. The Tigers were one win away from advancing after the 6-0 shutout win.
With only a few hours to forget their troubles from the previous game, the Yankees had troubled Jaret Wright on the hill. Playing as if they were up all night with insomnia, the Bombers were bombed 8-3. Sent packing by a team that no one but themselves believed in. And I'm sure that if the Tigers were honest, some in their own clubhouse didn't believe they would win. They carried manager Jim Leyland on their shoulders in celebration following the final out. One manager up high, the opposing field boss down in the dumps.
What is going to be the fallout over the long winter in the Bronx? George Steinbrenner cannot be happy with his over $200 million dollar investment. The Yankees have not won the World Series since 2000, and have gone down in the first round two years in a row. This year's team was built to win right now, especially with the Bobby Abreau acquisition at the July 31st trading deadline.
Moving contracts will be tough. It is obvious that A-Rod is never going to fit in. A possible destination is Los Angeles, where Angels owner Arte Moreno has already publicly stated that he will make a major acquisition in the off-season. The Yankees may have to pick up some of the salary and hope Rodriguez will waive his no-trade clause.
What will happen with Joe Torre? If a change is going to be made, there are two likely candidates to replace him. Depending on what route the team will take, either Lou Pinella or Joe Girardi makes sense. If there will just be some tweaking and fine-tuning done to the roster, Pinella can step in and hopefully push some of the dead wood to play the way they should. If a rebuilding era begins (don't bet on that), a younger manager such as Girardi is logical choice.
By getting the Florida Marlins to play the way they did for as long as they did, he deserves another shot as a manager. Girardi may end up winning the National League Manager of the Year award, even though he has already been fired after one season. Problems with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria sealed his fate, even though the job he did was lauded throughout baseball.
Both Pinella and Girardi are looked at as Yankees and popular figures. If a man such as Joe Torre is replaced, Yankee fans should be happy with either one.