The New York Daily News devoted several pages on Monday to what the media and Yankees fans will point to as the root cause of the Bronx Bombers' demise in the American League Championship Series vs. Detroit if the Yankees don't break out of a 2-0 hole starting tonight. All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter is gone for the season after fracturing his left ankle late in Saturday's game. On Sunday, journeyman Jayson Nix, acquired in the offseason as a free agent, started in place of Jeter. I had thought about giving the Yankees a collective Dunce Cap for taking Eduardo Nunez off the ALCS roster, as he's been with the club a couple of years, and, yup, has filled in for both Jeter and Alex Rodriguez often enough to the point where he could be counted on. However, Nunez, like everyone else, wasn't hitting all that well in the ALDS, and manager Joe Girardi decided he needed an extra pitcher rather than an extra bat on the bench.
Turns out that decision might just be a bad enough one to cost the Yankees another trip to the World Series.
To their credit, the Yankees played well enough to win on Sunday, but couldn't hit. The media focus after this game was a blown call at 2nd base by umpire Jeff Nelson (no relation to the former pitcher of the same name who hurled for the Yankees, Rangers, & Mariners, among others) that cost the Yanks an out and conceivably the game. Replays clearly showed that Detroit's Omar Infante was out at 2nd, but because Infante's body screened Nelson from seeing the tag applied by Robinson Cano, he called Infante safe. Girardi argued and ultimately was ejected while making a pitching change as he decided to continue the dispute.
So, the Yankees are down 2-0, headed for Detroit, where the Tigers' ace, Justin Verlander, awaits. The doom & gloom has already set in, but let's remember that the Yankees have beaten Verlander before. He's not that invincible. With the media already poor-mouthing the Yankees' chances of recovering, it has some assuming the series will be over tomorrow. No, it won't. The Yankees have hit enough and scored enough to get to this point, but now, it isn't enough. The offense has to finally wake up after a 7 game slumber party. Of course, the absence of Jeter will be a problem psychologically, but that's something that needs to be addressed well before game time.
You know what they'll say if the Tigers advance to the Series. Never mind that it could be a rematch of the '06 Fall Classic, which in turn was a rematch from 1968, should St. Louis also advance. The media will tell you that without the Yankees, the ratings will drop like a bag of stones. Tigers-Giants could be a fresh matchup. So could Yankees-Giants or Yankees-Cardinals in this modern era, should New York turn things around. The Yankees have their backs against the collective wall. An entire city, not to mention a state, worries about them. Going into game 3, the Yankees only have to look back at what they did vs. Verlander in the regular season. All that talk about throwing past records out the door in the playoffs doesn't always work. It's time the Yankees proved that point, to themselves, to their fans, and to everyone. It starts tonight.