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Don’t declare the Yankees dead just yet

Oct 16, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game Two Getty Images

As I wrote this morning, the smart money is on the Tigers. They’re up 2-0, they’re at home and they have Justin Verlander on the hill. Not a bad way to live life.

But no matter who is favored, I’m rather surprised at how many people seem to be totally writing the Yankees off as dead.  Sure, if they don’t turn things around quickly they are roadkill, but there is nothing about their current plight that is 100% unprecedented or 100% fatal.  From the AP:

The 1974 Oakland Athletics won the World Series despite hitting .198 in the postseason. The 1962 Yankees did as well, even though Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were a combined 7 for 48. Perhaps the most encouraging historical memory for the Yankees comes from another of their championship seasons. In 1996, New York was shut down by Atlanta in the first two games of the World Series. At that point, the Braves had won five straight games by a combined score of 48-2. Then the Yankees took the next four and won the title.

I remember 1996 quite well, of course.

The point isn’t that things are good for the Yankees. They’re awful!  The point is that fundamental nature of baseball simply does not prohibit anyone who is hitting poorly to suddenly start hitting well. It certainly does not prohibit anyone who is down 2-0 to come back.  Momentum in such matters is a myth.

I think the Tigers will win this because so much is in their favor at the moment and thus so are the odds.  But if the Yankees break out the bats tonight and win a game against Justin Verlander — and Verlander did lose eight times this year — they find themselves down 2-1 and with their ace, CC Sabathia on the mound tomorrow.

In light of that, why does it seem so hard for people to acknowledge at least the possibility for a comeback?

  1. mrfloydpink - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    The difference is that those other teams didn’t have a starting lineup with a combined age of like 310 years.

  2. sdelmonte - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:14 PM

    Because we hate the Yankees with such a passion that we want them dead, dead, dead. Even though one of the reasons we hate them is because they’ve proven at least some of the time that they are really hard to kill.

    At the same time, let’s note that the Yankees haven’t been in this dire a situation since 1996, and haven’t successfully staved off elimination since 2003. They’re like Tiger Woods, amazing when they storm out to a lead, but rather underwhelming when playing from behind.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:52 PM

      The Yankees led MLB in come-from-behind victories this season, and have ranked at or near the top of that stat for a good many years.

      We are the Knights Who Say…NARRATIVE!

      • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:04 PM

        Although they didn’t have any 9th inning comeback wins in the first 161 games. Not that that means anything, but it can be twisted pretty easily depending on how you define a “comeback”.

  3. darthicarus - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    As a Tigers fan I don’t discount the Yankees at all. I was nervous until the final out of the ALDS even with Verlander dealing. All it takes is one inning with a missed pitch, bad fielding, lucky bounce, etc. and the balance can shift. Detroit hasn’t exactly been murdering the ball on offense and they didn’t fair too well against Hughes during the season if I recall.

    Nothing is ever a given in baseball, but things appear to be lining up favorably for the Tigers…I just won’t be one of those fans contemplating which team from the NL would be a better match-up in the World Series until the 4th win of the ALCS is in the books.

  4. Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    I think it’s equal parts people being tired of the Yankees in the spotlight, and the bad reputation that my fellow fans have gotten. Yankee-hating is a favorite pastime of fans everywhere, so I’m not at all surprised to see people eager to cheer and jeer at the demise of the highest payroll in baseball.

  5. 18thstreet - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    I remember this one time a team had a 3-0 lead in the ALCS and lost the series — even losing the last two games at home, if you can imagine it.

    So nothing’s impossible. It’s ain’t over ’til it’s over.

    Best. Sport. Ever.

  6. 1baseballfan - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    There is a prevailing assumption by baseball writers and broadcasters that momentum is predictive despite the fact it’s demonstrably not.

    • beelza - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:48 PM

      How do you assign value heuristically to momentum? Also, it seems as though predictive momentum would be a lagging indicator.

  7. Kevin S. - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    No Craig, go ahead and write them off. I’m giddy about the fact that the Yankees can actually play the “nobody believed in us!” card for the first time in nearly two decades.

    • chadjones27 - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      So, you’re happy that the Yankees are sucking at the moment?

    • 18thstreet - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:54 PM

      If I’ve learned one thing from watching and reading about sports (and I have), it’s that teams are ALWAYS able to say no one believed in them. This is clearly what motivates professional athletes.

  8. El Bravo - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Fuck 1996.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      Do have to buy it dinner first?

    • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      1996 was a sexy, sexy year.

  9. moe0594 - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    If the Yankees win today (you can call it a miracle) against Verlander, I can guarantee you that tomorrow headlines will be different.

    Plus, CC is up tomorrow and this series can easily be at 2-2!

    Go yanks!

  10. philliesblow - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    Logic dictates the Tigers have this under control, but when something looks like a sure thing, beware the pendulum. The Yankees don’t have to win 4 games tonight they only have to win 1 game four times. Years ago when referring to the Boston Celtics, Bill Laimbeer said “When you have a snake down, you have to cut off its head.” I hope JV has a sharp knife tonight.

    • joshuamoser - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM

      JV has the sharpest set of knives in MLB…four seam fastball, slider, curveball and circle change up….all SOLID A pitches. And he will throw 140 pitches tonight if that’s what it takes to keep Valverde out of the game and the Tigers with a 3-0 series lead.

  11. beelza - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    The loudest group that has declared the Yankees dead, both clinically and biologically, is the New York media. Here in Detroit, many fans are in no way convinced that JV is an automatic win. Yankees are playing for the personal and professional reputations and this means they are cornered and unpredictable. Tiger bats haven’t really shown up either. Now, if the Yanks do beat Verlander, well…The plan on beating JV is the same everywhere, foul balls, high pitch counts per plate appearance, get him out of the game. Bad news for opponents is JV has got NO problem going 140 pitches. His highest this year was 132 win at KC. If JV is hitting the corners by the 2nd, 3rd innings, then good-night.

  12. beefytrout - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:42 PM

    “why does it seem so hard for people to acknowledge at least the possibility for a comeback?”

    Because nothing gets people going like hyperbole. For example, Entertainment Weekly’s website – a pop culture magazine that has nothing to do with sports – has a front page article about the current Yankees dynasty being dead, having died this postseason.

    • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:57 PM

      Weird, I thought it died last year. And the year before that. And 2008 and 2007 and pretty much every year that they didn’t win the world series since 2000.

  13. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 16, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    I know I have mentioned this before, but let’s not discount the success of the Yankee’s pitching/failure of Detroit’s hitting in this series thus far. While they have been better than the Yankees (not a huge accomplishment) much of their success in scoring has been aided by bad umpiring and sloppy defense (sorry Swisher and Cano). If the umps keep their stuff together, and the Yankee defense plays up to its own standards (solid but not spectacular) the Yankee bats only need to be a little bit better than awful to start winning games.

    I wonder if ARod has a speech in him for the locker room tonight…

    • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:01 PM

      I’m hoping he gets up and says exactly what you just said there. “Guys we only have to be a little bit better than awful. Let’s go out there and do it! ‘Mediocrity’ on three!”

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 16, 2012 at 6:21 PM

        Call it mediocrity if you like. They don’t have to be perfect; they only have to be a little bit better than the other team. In this case, the other team had the 5th best record in the AL while playing in the weakest division in the AL. If the Yankees have any stones whatsoever, they can pull this off.

  14. indaburg - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    The Yankees are not dead. They’re only mostly dead. Mostly dead is also partly alive.

    • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:08 PM

      So now we just need to convince Miracle Max that it’s a noble quest, and we’ll be on our way. Hmmm… convincing a non-Yankee fan that the Yankees winning another championship is somehow noble. This may not be as easy as I thought…

      • Jeremy T - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:09 PM

        Oh wait, Billy Crystal is somewhat famously a Yankee fan! We’re in! :)

      • indaburg - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:12 PM

        This would be my argument to Miracle Max. I’m no Yankee fan. I just want a 7 game series (more baseball is for the greater good) in which Detroit comes out on top. See, it’s much crueler for the Yankee fan if the Yankees come thisclose to winning, and then crush their hopes in the end. Pretty noble, no?

      • indaburg - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:14 PM

        “We’re in?”

        What’s with this “we”, paleface? ;-)

      • bigharold - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:48 PM

        ” Pretty noble, no?”

        In a word, .. No!

  15. tuffnstuff - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    I’m one of the 99%. The Yankee organization is definitely geared to the 1%, based on the new Stadium, WHICH I HATE, since you have to be a celebrity or a 1 per center to get seats near the field. The Yankee organization killed the chance for true baseball fans to have a shot at the really good seats. As a result, there are empty seats in Yankee Stadium for the important games. This is disgraceful.

    Having said that, I am a die-hard Yankee fan and have been for over 55 years. I blame my father. He introduced me to the game and the Yankees back in the 50′s and I love them to this day. The Yankees are in my blood and I will never change. I remember when players had summer jobs to make ends meet and when they were in bondage to the wealthy owners. Each year, each player, had to renegotiate with the fat cat owners for $15,000.00 type contracts. (I kept a scrapbook.)

    Now, players make fantastic amounts of money. People are angry about these salaries because they can’t fathom this kind of money in their own lives. I get that. But if the players, who draw in the fans weren’t paid that money, where would it go? The rich owners would be richer and no fan would get any break price wise.

    I still root for the Yankees, and always will. Mazzeroski didn’t shake me loose in 1960, nor did the Red Sox comeback from a 3-0 deficit in 2004. Win or lose, I am and always will be a Yankee fan.

  16. joshuamoser - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    Did Verlander face the Yankees in ’96 when they had their big comeback? If my eyes serve me properly, the Yankees will be facing JV two more times in this series….if they make it that far! :)

    • beefytrout - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:28 PM

      I don’t think the series would go to 10 games, no matter what happens tonight.

    • Kevin S. - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      No, Verlander didn’t face the Yankees in ’96. Just a bunch of scrubs named Glavine, Avery, Smoltz and Maddux.

    • ferrisdp - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      No, they only had 3 guys named Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz in their starting rotation, each with ERAs south of 3.00 for the season. But you probably were still in diapers then, son.

  17. legacybroken - Oct 16, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    I’m a Tigers fan and I’m not taking this series granted. Its not over until we reach 4 wins.

  18. bigjimatch - Oct 17, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    How’d that work out?

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