NEW YORK -- Two Tuesdays ago, on the afternoon before these playoffs began, television cameramen and reporters massed around
The Yankees' payroll this season is approximately $206.8 million, nearly $68 million higher than that of any other club, but even the Yankees have players, like Coke (salary: $403,000), who don't make nearly enough to fly first class, or to build the biggest house in Tampa, or to spend their off-days in South Beach with Hollywood ingénues. Eleven players on the Yankees' 25-man ALCS roster earn $2 million a year or less, and eight earn less than $500,000. On a brisk, rainy and seemingly endless Saturday night in the Bronx, those players were the ones who ultimately won Game 2 of the Yankees' ALCS against the Angels after five hours and 10 minutes of play, and who sent them west with a commanding 2-0 series lead.
As 1 a.m. approached in the Bronx, after twelve hard-fought if sloppy innings -- the teams combined to make five errors -- both the Yankees and the Angels had whittled their rosters down to their last splinters, and the game remained tied at three. The Yankees had just two position players lingering on their bench, in
Then it was the Yankees' turn to bat, and manager
In the end, both the Yankees and the Angels were down to nothing, and the Yankees' nothing was better than the Angels' nothing. Of course, the Yankees wouldn't have lasted as long as they did in this game, which might prove to be the most memorable of this postseason, filled as it was with mini-drama after mini-drama, without their highly-compensated stars. They wouldn't have reached the 13th if not for free-agent prize
And the Yankees certainly would not have reached the 13th without
No one is really sure what has happened to Rodriguez, who once upon a time struggled in the postseason. "I know you guys are probably looking for something profound," he said to reporters after the game. "I'm just in a good place. I'm seeing the ball and I'm hitting it." Later he said, "I think [it goes] back to spring training. It was a rough one this spring. I thought making things simple was the best thing for me ... the fact that I'm out there playing baseball is a miracle."
There might be some truth to that -- to the idea that Rodriguez, after suffering through a spring in which he sustained a potentially catastrophic hip injury and was revealed to be a user of performance enhancing drugs, has now experienced far worse situations than a key playoff at-bat, and that the latter now seems easy to him. "I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever," said general manager
So this, now, is the situation with which the Angels are faced: an Alex Rodriguez playing at his absolute peak, even though it's October; a Yankees team that seems incapable of losing, even if it takes the last men on their roster to close things out; and a continuing inability by Angels fielders, it seems, to avoid making crucial errors in crucial situations. "I'm encouraged by what I saw on the field," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after this crushing loss. "We saw a lot of good things there." A lot of good things, yes. But once again, not quite enough of them.