I'm blogging this with eight innings done and the Yanks about to be finish off the biggest choke in playoff history. In this game, give BIG props to Derek Lowe for coming back on TWO DAYS rest and squashing the Yanks for 6 innings and hang the goat horns on Kevin Brown who got ten outs in two starts and allowed eight earned runs; Tom Gordon, who hacked up the lead in game 5; and Mariano Rivera, who was three outs away from a sweep and nine pitches later had let the Sawx back in the Series.
So it's time to take some stock of this weird season and the failures in this series to determine, now that the Curse is broken, what the Yanks will do next.
(1) Go through the rotation: Mussina, Brown, Vazquez, Contreras, Lieber = that was what the team started with and they ended with Mussina, Lieber, Brown, Hernandez, Vazquez, with Brown off his game, Hernandez a weakened replacement, and Vazquez losing his ability. Expect Vazquez to be traded, the Yanks to make a play for Randy Johnson, the Yanks to make an offer to Lieber (they have a team option for $8M but I'd try to give him 2 years and $12M) and the Yanks to try to get Carl Pavano. Other possibilities: they may make a play (via trade) for Barry Zito. What they SHOULD do is develop Brad Halsey -- a smooth lefty who has rocketed up the Yanks' farm system and who is deadly against lefties. Unfortunately, there won't be any takers for Brown, who the Yanks will have to pay $15M next year.
(2) Go through the bullpen: Gordon and Quantrill are both signed through next year, but either can be trade bait b/c of his postseason performance; Sturtze should be re-signed but Heredia will be scrapped. Next year, the Yanks will need much more rest for Rivera and whoever is his prime set-up man.
(3) Go through the coaches: Willie Randolph will probably be managing elsewhere next year, most likely with the Mets; Don Mattingly is questionable -- he needed to calm his hitters and smarten up their approach in those extra inning games; and Mel Stottlemyre is likely to be non-tendered. I've been on Mel's case for years because the Yanks aren't developing young pitchers, but what's worse is this group (except Moose and Embree) didn't have the same tenacity and fire that the RedSawx exhibited -- the same tenacity that the Clemens/Pettitte/Moose/Wells quad had last year.
(4) Go through the management: just how untouchable is Torre? He has two years and nearly $13M left on his contract so it would cost a lot to fire him. But this colossal failure dictates that a head or two must roll, and Torre made some of the worst calls of his postseason managerial career (see here and here). The fact that the Yanks were three outs away when Rivera honked in game 4, six outs away when Gordon honked in game 5, got burned by a bad bounce on the Clark double in game 5, blah blah blah . . . none of that matters. The key to this series is that Francona had an answer for Rivera -- freeze the status quo in the 7th or 8th with the RedSox close-out crew (Timlin/Embree/Foulke) and let the fatboys have a chance to come back before Rivera comes in or keep the game within a run because the Sawx knew they could get one off Mo.
But unfortunately the fall guy for this will definitely be Brian Cashman. Cash is perpetually on the Boss' shite list and that's wrong -- Cash has made numerous shrewd moves that helped the '98-'00 teams win their titles (two words: David Justice) and aided the '01-'03 teams whilst the Boss threw money at every big name free agent hitter he could (Giambi, Sheffield). Cash understood that the team needs character guys. There's no real coincidence that the Yanks' rise from the pits in '93 to the heights in '96 and beyond fit with the arrival of Paul O'Neill in the Bronx. Cash will fall, and that will be the Yanks' loss.
Look for more later because I'll be compiling my baseball blogging from the playoffs. Some of it was actually pretty good.