Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Yankees vs. Tigers: Tigers Tanked?

The Detroit Tigers appear to be the Rodney Dangerfield of this years' postseason, getting absolutely zero respect despite a 95-win season. This is, of course, due to two factors: the Tigers' 19-31 record over their last 50 games, which cost them the AL Central title, and the fact that they are playing the almighty Yankees, heroes of the media. Since everyone has already given this series over to New York, I think I'll waste a few paragraphs talking about how the Tigers can actually win. I will grant, it is a longshot, but best of five series make longshots possible.

The Tigers have four pretty good starters, and have arranged them so that lefthanders Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers will start three of the five games. The Yankee lineup is fairly balanced but does lean a bit to the left, with Damon, Abreu, Giambi, Matsui, and Cano. Justin Verlander, he of the 100-MPH fastball, will be pitching on nine days rest after showing second half fatigue, and along with Jeremy Bonderman (who also looked tired) give the Tigers a potential advantage on the mound in games three and four. Randy Johnson, with his sore back and 5.00 ERA, is no longer Randy Johnson on a regular basis, and Jared Wright is Jared Wright.

The Tigers have Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, and Jamie Walker to take over from the starters. The Yankees have Kyle Farnsworth and an overworked Scott Proctor. Zumaya could be a huge advantage, if he's not already exhausted and Jim Leyland wants to work him as much as needed. The Yankee bullpen just isn't solid until you reach Mariano Rivera, and I could certainly envision a big crooked number in the seventh inning somewhere along the line.

As great as he is, Rivera is more of a threat with his cut fastball against lefthanders. The righty-dominated Tigers lineup could turn that against him in a key spot. Of course, the Tigers insist on closing with Todd Jones, who is perfectly capable of playing the part of the HMS Hood to the Yankees' Bismark at any time.

Gary Sheffield is playing first base. Regardless of what some people think, you don't play first base by getting the appropriate glove and standing a few feet from the bag. The Yankees have had a pretty decent defense this year, but one mistake at first could break open a close game.

An injury to an up-the middle player in the Yankee defense. If Posada, Jeter, Cano, or Damon went down, the Yankees are forced into using Sal Fasano, Miguel Cairo, or Melky Cabrera, which is not what they had in mind when they spent $220 million to build this team.

Like I said, these are longshots. But the history of postseason baseball is full of longshots. Any game player can tell you about that terrible roll of the dice that cost him the game just when he thought he was in control. The Yankees will have to roll the dice like everyone else, and there is always that chance of hitting snake eyes.

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