Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Bronx Bombers

Barry Bonds (25) will be in Shea tonight for a three-game series against the Mets.
Well, shit. The Yankees looked like comeback kids suddenly after taking two-of-three from Boston last week. What a difference a weekend makes. While Yankees fans were celebrating the series victory (a rare one for the Yankees in what is turning out to be an awful season), I wasn't impressed by it.

For this simple reason: the Yanks went into the series trailing the Red Sox by 10 1/2 games. If you're that far back in the standings and you want to get back into the race, 2-of-3 ain't gonna cut it. The Yankees didn't even whiff a sweep, either. They won game one, then lost game two which put them right back where they started the series. Going into the final game of the series, all they could do shave off one game. I'm sorry, but one game when you're down by 10 is like not even starting up the mountain.

The Yankees had reason to worry. On the horizon was a three-game set against the hottest team in baseball -- at that point the Los Angeles Angels. I predicted (elsewhere - you'll have to trust me on that) that the Angels would likely win the series. For one, they're better than the Yankees. For two, they've had the Yankees number even during their good years.

I always predicted that Boston would win it's series -- again not a stretch as they were playing in Texas against the AL's worst team.

Angels did win the series -- they swept the Yankees at the Stadium. Meanwhile, Boston was sweeping the Rangers. Ooops. So much for progress in the right direction.

Monday morning, the Yankees wake up (in Toronto no less - another team ahead of them in the standings) with a 12 1/2 deficit to Boston, closer to last place than first. After a Yankee loss in Toronto last night and a win by Boston against Central-Division leading Cleveland, that deficit is now at 13 1/2 games.

I'm not sure even the Yankees mystique can overcome that many games back. If you're thinking perhaps they could back in a different way, they 7 1/2 behind Detroit in the Wild Card Standings but would have to leap over seven other teams to make it into the playoffs without winning the division. And just to put that into perspective, they are currently tied with perennial doormats Tampa Bay.

The only reason the baseball world hasn't counted the Yankees out yet is because they're the Yankees. They have actual talent (they have the league's best hitter by average and home run leader). And because coming up through the minors is the Second Coming (a.k.a. Roger Clemens). Though I'm wondering if even the Rocket is questioning his choice now. The Red Sox perhaps didn't need him as badly as the Yankees do, but maybe Roger could use the Red Sox more than he could use the swirling bad winds that are prevailing in the Bronx.

While the Yankees were playing Boston, the Mets lost two-of-three to their rival Braves to close their Division lead to 1 1/2 games. Worse result but better situation. The Mets did their job. They had to at least win one game to keep the lead. Why? Because their next three games were against a team they've owned lately (Miami) and beyond that a cozy nine-game homestand (not that they've been playing all that great at home this season). In other words, they have breathing room.

(Not that they shouldn't have tried like Hell to beat Atlanta. The Braves are 6-3 against the Mets this year. If the Mets win the division, it won't matter much how they play against the Braves -- except if they meet in the playoffs. So yeah, the Mets have to figure out a way to beat this team again. Like last year.)

Over the weekend, you might be interested to learn, the Mets swept the Marlins as the Braves were getting swept in Atlanta by the surging Philadelphia Phillies. Now the Mets lead is 4 1/2 games. Not world beating but at this stage of the season, it's pretty damn good.

My next big question is when the New York Times will finally anoint the Mets the best team in their city. Even when they were playing those interleague games last week and the Yankees had to win the third game to avoid a sweep, the Times' game stories were all about the Yankees. Maybe in the past, they deserved that coverage, but right now, the Mets should be the lead story, not the fall of the House that Ruth Built. Come on, Gray Lady. Give Flushing some love.

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