Before the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and the Diamondbacks, Arizona’s Curt Schilling was asked about playing not only against the Yankees, but their tradition, and replied “Mystique and Aura? Those are dancers at a nightclub.”
A great line, to be sure. And the veteran Diamondbacks were unaffected enough to win the series in seven games. Two years later, the Florida Marlins beat the Yanks in the World Series…once again showing an aversion to the intimidation of Yankee lore.
It’s different in the American League. Even though the stats and my mind told me to pick the Twins in the Division series, my heart told me to pick New York. And I did. Why? Because they’re the Yankees, that’s why. They had beaten the Twins fourteen times in sixteen meetings over the last two years, and came into the series with six straight comeback wins against Minnesota. They extended that streak to eight before crushing the Twins in the game three clincher, 6-1, to move on to the ALCS.
“Those guys always find a way to win,” Twins left fielder Delmon Young told USA Today. “They have the best lineup. The best starting rotation. The best bullpen. Home-field advantage doesn’t mean anything when you play those guys.”
And that’s why I picked New York against Texas. Because those guys always find a way to win. How about Game 1 at the Ballpark at Arlington? Texas knocked out CC Sabathia early and had a 5-0 lead after six. But, “those guys” got a home run from Robinson Cano in the sixth, then scratched out five runs without the benefit of a homer in the eighth to win 6-5.
Most impressive was that the highest paid team in baseball grinds, and plays a hard nine, and doesn’t quit, and makes pitchers work, and does every other cliche known to man the relates to being competitive.
Brett Gardner hustles down the line and slides to be safe at first. Derek Jeter slams an 0-1 pitch to left for an RBI double, chasing starter C.J. Wilson and bringing lefty Darren Oliver. Nick Swisher takes FIVE pitches before fouling one off and earning a walk. Mark Texiera takes FOUR pitches before fouling one off, and then taking a walk to load the bases. After the Rangers replaced Oliver with Darren O’Day, thumper Alex Rodriguez singles two home. With O’Day out and Clay Rapada on the mound, Cano singles to tie it at five. Derek Holland comes on as the fifth pitcher of the inning for Texas, and Marcus Thames drives in the lead run with a 2-2 single to left.
Kerry Wood and then Mariano Rivera close it out. 6-5 Yankees. Typical. It happens all the time. With the Yankees.
These guys have won before. They all have tons of money. They don’t need to work this hard. But what the Yankees have done is brought in ultra-competitive players, led by Captain Jeter, and given them the intimidation factor that IS wearing the Yankee pinstripes.
Schilling and other players can say what they want, and it is different in the NL. But for AL teams like Oakland, Minnesota and the Rangers…who have now lost nine straight playoff games to New York…there is Mystique and Aura, and they perform nightly when the Yankees are scheduled.