NEW YORK -- This Yankees team is a lot like many past pin-striped champions, with its emphasis on pitching, power and payroll. And although it'd been six years since the storied franchise's last trip to the World Series, in another reminder of past champions, Mr. Steinbrenner recalled the usual script. Only this time it was the young Mr. Steinbrenner, Prince Hal, who sounded in celebration like he was impersonating his father.
"They're a good team,"
Perfect. Young Hal certainly knows the drill.
First he damns them with faint praise ("good team"). Then he notes some alleged advantage for the other team ("more days off"), more imagined than real. Then he suggests he likes the Yankees' chances.
It's hard to blame young Steinbrenner for liking the Yankees' chances. But then, chances are he hasn't spent too much time scouting the Phillies, who are the team most like the Yankees for a variety of reasons. Each team has a worthy ace that started their career in Cleveland. Each team has one monster power hitter, one of the very best sluggers in the game, who could not be hotter right now. Each is known for its comeback victories. And each has a positive history, though the Yankees' positive history dates back to the beginning of the previous century, while the Phillies' positive history mainly goes back to last year's championship.
Here's an early look at some of the better matchups:
The Dodgers determined that the way to get out
The Yankees' hitters who are not Rodriguez and Jeter all struggled in the Division Series, but
The Yankees and Phillies are both 7-2 so far this October. As opposed to blowing out their opponents, the Yankees have relied on more oppositional screw-ups (the Twins' baserunning and Angels' fielding left quite a bit to be desired), but charitably, perhaps the Yankees forced them into those errors. The Phillies weren't nearly as good in the regular season, winning fewer games in the inferior league, but won several games late to give them a feeling of invincibility. The Phillies have hit the best of all the playoff teams, posting an .840 team OPS (the Yankees' mark is .800 exactly).
The Yankees led the majors in come-from-behind wins, walk-off wins and pies in the face. There clearly was a team unity, even if a lot of the guts of the team is new.
The Indians beat the Astros for coveted young manager
There was a lot more going on behind the scenes than was actually recorded Sunday. One source close to the Indians said Valentine was actually their first choice -- "If he's willing to accept it, he's got it," that person said a couple days ago -- and it is believed they only acted quickly upon Acta after first checking early Sunday with Valentine about how committed he was to coming to Cleveland.
The Indians, apparently understanding Valentine made perfect sense to reenergize their franchise but also feeling extremely comfortable that Acta was a great fit, tried first to get a quick answer from Valentine about whether he could commit to Cleveland. But when he told them he couldn't give them one, they turned immediately to Acta, outbidding the Astros, who are disinclined from bidding wars in such matters. It appears the Indians were apparently spurred into action well ahead of their original schedule (they still were planning to interview
The Cleveland source said Indians GM
In some ways it's an odd union, The Indians found the one manager available who had a worse record than them (Acta was 26-61 with the Nationals last year), while Acta found the one team looking for a manager that drew worse than the Nationals (the Indians drew a few hundred fans a game fewer). But it makes sense in other ways.
Acta is beloved everywhere he's worked. He toiled for years in the Astros organization, and the Mets were anxious to take him back as third-base coach if none of the managerial chances worked out. Meanwhile, Nationals president
The Indians take the managing job seriously. While Cleveland is a team that knows its sabermetrics, the organization also doesn't perceive the manager as a mid-level functionary only there to carry out the GM's wishes. And one source connected to the Indians said he believed they'd have gone as high as $2 million, or perhaps even a bit higher, for Valentine. But it doesn't appear to have been about money. The longtime manager seems content to work on TV for a year, recharge his batteries and wait for the best possible fit. It is believed Valentine still yearns to manage. Though with several teams showing interest but nothing yet working out (at least the Marlins and Nationals called), Valentine may be content to wait awhile for a better fit.
The Indians very much like their longtime minor league manager
The Astros might have loved Acta, but you have to question their commitment after they reportedly offered only a two-year deal. Word is that their choice may now come down to veteran manager
• The Yankees and Red Sox are expected to do battle for talented left-handed pitcher
• The Mets don't seem inclined to pursue top free-agent pitcher
• It's hard to imagine
• Executives around the game are watching the soap opera that's playing out in Los Angeles involving the