The Gathering Gloom
The reaction of the New York tabloids to the Twins' defeat of the Yankees in game one of the ALDS last night is subdued, with a consistent theme emerging. George Steinbrenner amassed a record payroll this year to ensure another championship and the Yanks may not be good enough to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
Mike Vaccaro from the New York Post:
Suddenly, sooner than any of them possibly could have believed, the Yankees get to find out if they bought any championship timber for this team that cost nearly $200 million to assemble. Suddenly, stunningly, impossibly, a season that included 101 regular-season victories hangs by a rapidly fraying thread. Suddenly, amazingly, the Yankees find themselves in a hell of a jam.
Kevin Kernan, also from the Post:
...on a day the Red Sox moved a step closer to living their dream, the ultimate Yankee nightmare is right around the corner. The Yankees have now lost two straight, 2-0 post-season games going back to Game 6 of the World Series last year.
A first-round knockout by the Twins, whose payroll is $145 million less than the Yankees, would be devastating to George Steinbrenner & Co.
One of the unappreciated risks of grossly overspending on payroll, it's money that matters for your critics, and anything short of total victory is reason for ridicule.
The Twins playoff run last year began the same as this year. A close, low scoring, hard fought victory over the Yankees and Game 1 starter Mike Mussina. Compared to this year's press dread and resignation, last year's panicked, hyperbolic reaction from the press was perfect. Perfect in that it reinforced the beloved stereotype of New Yorker tabloid journalism, forced to blow any story dramatically out of proportion, in order to be heard in that media saturated cacophony:
George Steinbrenner said getting the Yankees even is Torre's responsibility. "I am not a good loser and I am upset, but that's all right," The Boss said. "We will turn it around. Joe will have to do it."
But Torre can't field or hit, and if those two areas don't improve, the river of Pinstriped blood gushing from The Bronx corner of East 161st St. and River Ave. will carry several bodies with it.
Those words from sportswriter George King of the New York Post. For whatever reason, he's been put on the bench by the Post this year, relegated to doing some sidebar stuff, at least for game 1. Let's hope he gets called in to throw some gasoline on the fire if the series continues to go the Twins' way.
It is interesting to contrast the confidence of Steinbrenner (as quoted by King last year) with his reported reaction this year. This from John Heyman of Newsday:
While the Yankees have the payroll and pedigree in this repeat David-and-Goliath matchup, the Twins have the pitching. Outspent by $140 million and outmanned by most accounts, the team that beat contraction has once again put an honest-to-goodness scare into baseball's richest team.
Steinbrenner, the man from hope, wore a pained expression of hopelessness as he boarded the loge level elevator just before midnight. He ignored a reporter's question, put his head down and headed down. His team may go in a similar direction.
From "we will turn it around" to a pained expression of hopelessness. Having John Lieber and two question marks as your next scheduled starters instead of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and David Wells tends to have that affect on your spirit.
UPDATE: Dr. Monkeystein's coming to terms with impending loss should be fun to read too.