Thursday, September 27, 2007

13 straight

Next week the Yanks will enter the post season for the 13th straight year, the longest run in AL history and only one behind the 1991-2005 Braves. The Yanks and Braves would each have added a year to their streaks but for the 1994 strike -- the Yanks led the AL East when the players walked out; the Braves were in NL wild card position.

There's little doubt that the Braves' accomplishment of making the postseason for so many consecutive years is more impressive, even if the Yanks tie the Bravos' mark next season. This is because the Braves won their division each time and had no fallback from 1991-93 -- division title or bust (ask the 103-59 Giants from 1993 who lost the NL West to the Braves at game 162 of the season about "bust"); the Yanks will have a minimum of three wild card berths to their credit. The Braves did, however, have less competition than the Yanks for most of their run -- the 1995-05 Braves rarely had a close divisional challenge (just three division titles of the 13 were by 5 games or less; the Yanks won five of their 10 divisional crowns by less than 5 games). And the Yanks' playoff record is far superior: the Braves are 6-5 in NLDS, 5-4 in NLCS (three times they had no NLDS to play), and 1-4 in the World Series; the Yanks are 7-5 in ALDS, 6-1 in ALCS and 4-2 in the Series, including 2-0 against the Braves.

This year is probably the Yanks' most intriguing -- they have the hitting and enough pitching to win the World Series (contra 2004, 2005 pitching and 2001 hitting), they struggled horribly early in the season (21-29), they suffered managerial and organizational brain lapses (Torre's bullpen management in April and May, Cashman's Igawa and fitness coordinator decisions), they battled through massive hitting struggles by key players (Damon, Abreu, Cano) and dealt with preposterous injury levels (50 starts by rookies, only one of whom was in the rotation out of spring training). Nonetheless, this season epitomizes the success of the steady hand approach Torre uses and unquestionably supported the drafting and organizational strategy that Cashman and Damon Oppenheimer (he's the draft guru who picked Kennedy and Joba) followed.

So congrats to the Yankees: the 2007 team is their best mix of stable vets and young enthusiasts since the '96 team. Here's hoping they achieve similar success in October.

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