The Yankees had to tax their bullpen on Tuesday night in order to win the wild-card game. And tonight another bill will come due for this trip to the ALDS.
The Yankees and Brian Cashman must be praised. A year ago they were tearing down an old team and trading valuable players. Today, their revamped team starts Game 1 of the ALDS. That’s fast.
That previous Yankees team was too old for this to be called a reload, but this has been more than just a rebuild. In the game of baseball, however, every play leads to the next and every win or loss impacts the next day.
For instance, Joe Girardi prudently turned to his bullpen one out into the WC game. That move saved the season.
But it will impact the Yankees’ chance to win the ALDS against the already-superior Cleveland Indians. It is not that bullpen maneuver, however, that is likely to determine this series.
No, that honorific belongs to last year’s trade of Andrew Miller.
Beard or No
That was fourteen months ago. He was the best reliever in baseball then, and he is the best reliever today. And he will be one of the toughest obstacles for the Baby Bombers to overcome.
Obviously, a team that is willing to pick up a big contract while surrendering its future is playing for the now. That was Cleveland’s situation last year when they acquired Miller, and it’s still their situation this year. That was always their plan.
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And although it might have been the Yankees’ hope that they, too, could contend as early as 2017, it cannot be said it was their plan. Yet here they are, way ahead of schedule, ready to compete for it all.
But, again, one play leads to the next and the Yankees will be sadly reminded of the cyclical, and sometimes ironic, nature of baseball starting tonight: Miler’s trade was supposed to enhance the Yankees’ chances of winning future playoff series, not diminish them.
Because this Yankees team can compete for it all if they play as loose as they did in the WC game. They certainly did not seem nervous.
The Yankees real problem is that Miller won’t be nervous, either. His talent and World Series experience might be the difference in this series.
If so, it will serve as a wry reminder that all things act according to their natures. Baseball is no exception. I doubt that will serve as much comfort when Yankees’ hitters face the intimidating lefty at some point this series.
But hopefully they will think of this experience as part of the price of becoming future champions: Sometimes, playing for the future almost ensures losing in the present. Cashman and the Boys did not have to pay that price last year.
Tonight, however, the Yankees will have to pay for a bullpen maneuver more costly than they ever envisioned.
Again, this was a prudent move and one few would have wanted to undo if they could. At least until tonight.