Saturday, October 24, 2009

Relax! It's Not 2004 Redux

Red Sox Nation is cooing about the posibility of another collapse, whispering in not-so-hushed tones, "2004! 2004!"

But have have no fear Yankees fans it isn't going to happen again. Take a deep breath and relax. Now is not the time to panic.

There is no need to make drastic changes and do things like, say, bench Robinson Cano in favor of Jerry Hairston Jr., though benching Nick Swisher should strongly be considered. He's just been that cold (3-for-31) with the bat.

This is not 2004 and this year's team is much, much better then the team that collapsed ever was.

That '04 team was the start of an era in which the Yankees were poorly constructed. Andy Pettitte, Rogers Clemens and David Wells left after the 2003 World Series, leaving the Yankees' rotation in tatters.

In came the likes of an old and broken-down Kevin Brown, not-made-for-New York Javier Vazquez and rehabbing Jon Lieber to join an aging Orlando Hernandez and staff's the only reliable starter, Mike Mussina.

That meant that team -- and the teams that followed until last year's team -- was over-reliant on its offense to cover up its massive flaw.

For the entire regular season (101-61), through the first round of the playoffs and even during the first three games of the ALCS against the Red Sox, the Yankees were able to hide their fatal flaw.

But as we all know, that Achilles' heel did show, resulting in the greatest playoff collapse in baseball history as the that Yankees team became the first to lose a seven-game series in which it had 3-0 lead.

Yes, Mariano Rivera couldn't slam the door in Games 4 and 5, which were started by El Duque (5 IP, 3 R) and Mussina (6 IP, 2 R). But with two more chances to punch that ticket to the World Series, the Yankees didn't have the horses. The starting pitching just didn't have what it took.

Leiber was outclassed in Game 6 by Curt Schilling and his bloody sock and Brown imploded in the first two innings of Game 7.

.........

Fast forward five years. The Yankees grab a 3-1 lead in the ALCS against the Angels, but fail to close out the series in Game 5, despite grabbing a two-run lead in the seventh inning.

Relax, history is not going to repeat itself. This team is much better equipped to overcome that adversity. It has the starting pitching and it has two strong pitchers lined up for the next two games.


Pettitte returned in '07 and gets the call in Game 6 tonight. You could not have a more experienced big game pitcher on the mound. Pettitte is tied with John Smoltz for the most career playoff victories with 15. In addition, he has won four series deciding games -- also tied for the record -- including Game 3 of the ALDS this year.

Pettitte will not get rattled. He will not get caught up in the moment. Big Game Andy will show up tonight and Ghosts will be around to help the offense.

And just in case it doesn't end tonight because, say, Joe Girardi overmanages the bullpen again, the Yankees have CC Sabathia ready to go on full rest for Game 7.

The Yankees are well armed. They will win this series. They are going back to the World Series and they will beat the Phillies.

Stay confident and stay positive.

This will not be 2004 all over again.

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