Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Idle Threat

Yankees fans smell blood in the water.

The Twins are down 0-2 and have Carl Pavano on the mound trying to save their season.

That's right. THAT Carl Pavano.

The same one who signed a four-year, $39.95 million contract with the Yankees before the 2005 season, only to make 26 starts total and go 9-8 with a 5.00 ERA, spending so much time on the disabled list with injuries that ranged from elbow problems to a broken rib sustained in a car accident to a bruised buttock that he earned the nickname "American Idle."

This can't be the guy the Twins are turning to, is it? Really?

But a word of warning: This is not going to be as easy as many Yankees fans think.

In New York we have a tendency to write off and demean anyone who, as the song says, "can't make it there."

We diminish their abilities and ignore anything they accomplished before stepping on the big stage under the bright lights of the big city.

We say they are bums and suck.

It's a mistake.

We learned that in 2006 when Kenny Rogers, a decided postseason failure with both the Yankees and Mets, pitched 7-2/3 shutout innings for the Tigers in a 6-0 Game 3 ALDS victory over the Bombers.

It would be a mistake to do that with Pavano, too.

Look, I'm not an apologist for Pavano, or even a fan of his, but there are two sides to every story and rest assured that Pavano has his gripes about how he was treated in New York, especially by Mike Mussina and in Joe Torre's book "The Yankee Years."

Pavano went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 2004 with the Marlins and made two starts in the postseason for them in 2003, including Game 4 of the World Series against the Yankees, which Florida won 4-3 in 12 innings. Pavano allowed one run on seven hits and one walk in eight innings in that game.

He has command of a good fastball and when he gets ahead of hitters, the throws a nasty change that acts more like a forkball, diving down and out of the strike zone. The guy does have some ability.

If you ask Pavano, you can bet he will tell you that he never intended for his Yankee Years to turn out as they did. He had big expectations for himself but just couldn't stay healthy. Some of the injuries were bizarre and questionable, but Pavano will tell you they were real and that he just couldn't pitch.

"It's definitely a black period in my career," Pavano told The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore. "Four years where I was kind of treading water. I've been able to go out there, with sustained health, and get through the year, and now everything has come full circle. I am getting a start in the playoffs, and I can't ask for much more than that."

And when Pavano's contract ended after last season, the parting was far from amicable: the Yankees bitter over a wasted $40 million, Pavano disappointed in his perceived lack of support through all his injuries.

Pavano pitched as if he had something to prove to his former mates when he pitched against the Yankees earlier this season with the Indians, allowing four runs on 11 hits and one walk in 13-1/3 innings in two starts, receiving no decisions in each outing.

Count on him to try to pitch like that today ... and at the Metrodome, he just might come up big. Afterall, he did beat the Royals last Sunday in Minnesota, going on three days' rest, to force a playoff game with the Tigers for the AL Central crown.

The Metrodome historically has been a very tough place for visitors to play. It gets loud. The ball gets lost against the dome. The field is turf. And it gets loud.

The thing is that the Yankees have plenty going for them aside from their 2-0 ALDS lead. Since the Metrodome opened in 1982, the Yankees are 77-64 there and have gone 4-0 in the playoffs at the dome in two series (2003, '04).

In addition, the Yankees have Andy Pettitte, a playoff stalwart, on the mound. In 35 postseason starts, Pettitte is 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA in 218-1/3 innings. He has pitched the equivalent of another full regular season in just the playoffs. He's not likely to be rattled by the raucous Metrodome crowd.

Look, the Yankees very likely are going to close it out tonight. I'm not saying they are going to lose.

Just don't expect it be easy or a rout simply because Carl Pavano, "American Idle" will be on the mound.

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