As I wrote this morning, the smart money is on the Tigers. They’re up 2-0, they’re at home and they have Justin Verlander on the hill. Not a bad way to live life.
But no matter who is favored, I’m rather surprised at how many people seem to be totally writing the Yankees off as dead. Sure, if they don’t turn things around quickly they are roadkill, but there is nothing about their current plight that is 100% unprecedented or 100% fatal. From the AP:
The 1974 Oakland Athletics won the World Series despite hitting .198 in the postseason. The 1962 Yankees did as well, even though Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were a combined 7 for 48. Perhaps the most encouraging historical memory for the Yankees comes from another of their championship seasons. In 1996, New York was shut down by Atlanta in the first two games of the World Series. At that point, the Braves had won five straight games by a combined score of 48-2. Then the Yankees took the next four and won the title.
I remember 1996 quite well, of course.
The point isn’t that things are good for the Yankees. They’re awful! The point is that fundamental nature of baseball simply does not prohibit anyone who is hitting poorly to suddenly start hitting well. It certainly does not prohibit anyone who is down 2-0 to come back. Momentum in such matters is a myth.
I think the Tigers will win this because so much is in their favor at the moment and thus so are the odds. But if the Yankees break out the bats tonight and win a game against Justin Verlander — and Verlander did lose eight times this year — they find themselves down 2-1 and with their ace, CC Sabathia on the mound tomorrow.
In light of that, why does it seem so hard for people to acknowledge at least the possibility for a comeback?
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.