Baseball Fever: When Jeff Fumed Over A Yankees First Round Loss To The Tigers

15 Apr

On Friday afternoon, October 6, 2006, Carey, Drew, Brett and I got in the car and excitedly headed up to Middlebury for family weekend.  Having just started his sophomore year, Jeff was already a Midd veteran, and we were all looking forward to a relaxing weekend, including attending the Saturday football game, having a couple of nice dinners with Jeff, and enjoying the beautiful Middlebury landscape.

Jeff, however, had at least one other important event in mind for us that Saturday.  Our Yankees were in trouble, down 2 games to 1 in their first round playoff series against the Detroit Tigers, and one more loss would mean their elimination.  So on Saturday after the football game, Jeff led us all to The Grille to watch the 4:30 game on the big screen.  After watching Middlebury eke out a 7-3 victory over Amherst to remain unbeaten at 3-0, watching the Yankees try to also emerge victorious seemed like the perfect thing to do.


The problem, however, was that by the fifth inning, the Yankees were already losing 7-0 en route to an 8-3 embarrassing loss that ended their season.  Jeff was beside himself, absolutely fuming, and I saw his face turn beet red as early as the 2nd inning, when the Tigers took a 3-0 lead.  He could not fathom how this storied franchise could exit the playoffs so meekly in the first round.  I knew right then that the J.K. Rolling column of The Middlebury Campus would be filled with Jeff’s rage that coming week.


Jeff was not in a good mood after the Yankees went quietly against the Tigers in '06


And sure enough, when the paper came out a couple of days later, on October 9, 2006, that was absolutely the case.  Jeff vented all his frustrations and pulled no punches, and the result was the following article.  If he was with us this past October, when the Yankees again suffered a first round defeat at the hands of those very same Tigers, I’m sure his reaction would have been very similar to what he expressed in 2006.


        “What an incredible disappointment. The New York Yankees, widely predicted to motor through the playoffs and win their first World Series in six years, couldn’t even make it out of the first round as they were eliminated in four games by the Detroit Tigers.

          In the game that sealed the deal for Detroit, the Yankees didn’t even resemble the team that finished tied for the best record in baseball. Their batting lineup was absolutely abominable and didn’t muster a hit until the sixth inning. Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman is a good pitcher, not an all-star. But the way the Yankees played against him, you’d think he was a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame.

          In the four game series, the Yankees hit .246 and scored a pathetic 3.5 runs per game, compared with a .285 batting average and 5.74 runs per game during the regular season. But what angers me the most is that in Game 4, the Yankees’ hitters displayed absolutely no intelligence at the plate. A team that prides itself on being patient and working the count looked more like a bunch of overanxious rookies, hacking wildly at every pitch they saw. Through the first five innings, Bonderman only had to throw 40 pitches. That’s an embarrassment. Gary Sheffield had two of the ugliest strikeouts I’ve ever seen, futilely waving at pitches over in the next zip code. Even Jeter, usually calm and poised at the plate, swung wildly at a pitch in the dirt and struck out.

          The pitching was horrible too. Jaret Wright threw a decent game – in the first inning. It all unraveled after that, starting with a meatball right over the middle in the bottom of the second that Magglio Ordonez absolutely crushed. Watching the game, I remember thinking to myself: how could Wright have missed so badly with that pitch? Posada’s glove was down and away, and Wright throws the ball right over the heart of the plate. You can’t make that mistake in postseason play. Another horrible pitch to Craig Monroe later in the inning and it was 3-0.

          Why didn’t the Yankees show up to play? Why did a team that crushed Detroit in Game 1 completely fold after that? I really don’t have an answer. I can guarantee, though, that owner George Steinbrenner is going to have some serious problems with it and will act accordingly. Rumors are already circulating that manager Joe Torre is done. Several teams have expressed interest in A-Rod, and I’m sure GM Brian Cashman will be more than happy to ship him and his chronic postseason failures out of New York. I know I would. There are really no limits as to the amount of change this team will undergo over the course of the winter, and frankly, there shouldn’t be any.

          This Yankees defeat confirmed that their current strategy of stockpiling a lineup of all-stars and relying on shaky veteran pitching to win in the playoffs does not work. Period. So the Yankees’ front office better figure out a viable long-term plan. Because right now, the world’s most storied sports franchise is in complete disarray.” 


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