Mike Lupica: After another Yankee postseason failure, time for Hal Steinbrenner to demand answers
You start here with the New York Yankees, which Hal Steinbrenner probably wants a word about right now:
They have now lost with the team they have finally won 11 years after their last World Series after a World Series title in the past two decades. They had Gerrit Cole, whom they signed for $ 324 million, the richest in history, to start the game. They had their closer, Aroldis Chapman, on whom they squandered the richest closer contract in history, on the hill in a tie at the end of eighth place. And they lost to a team from Tampa that is a mom and pop operation compared to them, at least in terms of payroll.
The Yankees must have Cole. You have the remainder of another $ 300 million contract owned by Giancarlo Stanton on the books by almost the end of this decade. And not only do they lose an elimination game this October like last October - Chapman gave up Jose Altuve a season-end home run at the time - they're also doing it a round early. You secure yourself. They're losing another big October streak for the same reason they lost the last two American League Championship Series games to the Houston Astros three years ago when that baseball rose in the Bronx and got them back to the Yankees rails:
When they stopped hitting home runs, they lost.
At the very end, they finally saw Mike Brosseau, headed by Chapman throwing a 100-mile fastball on September 1, turn into Bucky Dent, Tampa Bay in San Diego. They know they are saying about karma. It's rich sometimes. Perhaps Chapman should have hummed Brosseau again on Friday night.
They got Cole, they got a new pitching coach, they got a new training staff, they essentially got Stanton back into the playoffs and watched Stanton create one of the big tears in Yankee history for a couple of weeks. They still lost to the Rays for the eleventh time in 15 games this season. So, yes, the owner of the team this time has the right to ask some questions about an organization whose mission statement is World Series or Bust every year. Only the reality is this: the only reason the Yankees got into the second round this time is because baseball added a round.
You know who the Yankees beat in the playoffs over the past five years? They beat the Minnesota Twins, who can't beat anyone in the playoffs. You have a wild card game against the Oakland A's, who barely beat anyone in the playoffs. And they beat the Cleveland Indians.
"There's a lot of pain in this room," said Aaron Boone when it was over. A good man was still defending the organization's decision to advertise child Deivi Garcia for an inning in Game 2 and then pass it through J.A. to replace. Happ.
"We had a lot of success," Boone continued, "but some heartbreaking playoff losses."
He can say that again. The Yankees have certainly hit a lot of home runs in the past few weeks. Stanton hit her and Judge hit three, even if he didn't do much else, and Luke Voit kept hitting her. But you saw what happened when you stopped. You hit 18 times as a team in Game 2. They hit 12 times on Friday evening. You got a run in game 5. Three years ago they got a run against the Astros in games 6 and 7. Great fun watching all the big flies. The Yankees won 100 games twice in 2018 and 19, hitting so many balls out of sight that they lost the count. They're still one of the best teams in baseball. Just not the best and not for a long time.
And when it was all at stake, the Yankees - hold me up if you've heard this before - didn't have enough pitching, and everyone was in Game 5 through Chapman. Ultimately, they tried to return to the World Series with four pitchers: Cole, Chapman, Chad Green, Zack Britton.
You can trace this back to the same schedule for the everyday division series that everyone else played. They can attribute this to injury if they want. And yes, they lost Luis Severino, who had a great year for them two years ago but was also the starting pitcher in Game 3 against the Red Sox that year, in a game that ended 16-1 for Boston. And they lost Tommy Kahnle, a pitcher of relief suddenly discussed in the Yankee noise machine like the second coming of Goose Gossage. Do you know who the Astros lost from their pitching staff this season? Justin Verlander and her closer, Roberto Osuna. And they're still playing.
The Yankees also had a very expensive starter, Happ, they were scared to start against the Rays and a very expensive setup man, Adam Ottavino, who was brought to the Bronx with tremendous fanfare, was scared to let out of the bullpen. But the showpiece of the Yankees bullpen is Chapman, who has now, for two years in a row, reminded you of the man who nearly lost the '16 World Series for the Chicago Cubs when he served Rajai Davis with a two-run shot at the Cubs has been four outs from winning their first World Series in 108 years.
The Yankees have only turned 11. You know there seems to be so much more on 161st Street. Hal Steinbrenner talked about multiple World Series wins for the Yankees when spending the money on Cole. Maybe the big series run will start next year. Right now, the Yankees are going home early. And if Hal Steinbrenner doesn't want a word about where they're really going, when?
THE SIZE OF THE WHITE, HEAVY BATTLE ON THE RED CLAY AND THE ASTROS BACK IN THE ALCS ...
We didn't see much of the great Whitey Ford at Yankee Stadium the older he got.
And although he was known as the CEO, he never seemed to get the hug from Yankee Nation that Mickey or Yogi or Mr. DiMaggio got.
But he was the biggest starting pitcher in the team's history and he was one of the big Yankees back in October where they are still scoring, even since they were in a World Series.
But Whitey was more than that, a gentleman like anyone who ever wore pinstripe, as much a face of old Yankee grace as one of them he played with in the 50s and 60s.
And like Lou Gehrig, he was the immortal Yankee who came from the city where he did things on the most famous ball field of all that will always be remembered.
Do you know who the jets need to run their football business?
Someone like Ernie Accorsi.
The Los Angeles Lakers needed a stop against Jimmy Butler on Friday night to win an NBA championship.
Now on Sunday evening we're going to find out how much trouble they've caused themselves.
And when the heat is on its way back from 3-1 against LeBron, like the last time he won an NBA championship he came back from 3-1 against Cleveland.
Rafa Nadal versus Novak Djokovic, in the final of another French Open on Sunday, feels like the first real heavyweight championship fight in tennis since Djokovic was against Roger Federer in that unforgettable Wimbledon final of 2019.
Federer is still sitting on 20 majors.
Nadal binds him if he defeats Djoker at Roland Garros and wins his 13th - what? - French Open title included.
But if Djokovic gets it, the ranking will be incredibly like this:
If you've never read Ian Rankin's John Rebus novels, now is a good time to start as Rankin's new novel, wonderfully titled "A Song For The Dark Ages," is the best he has ever written.
Here's what we know about the Houston Astros, despite everything we know about trash cans and sign stealing, and maybe even a Family Feud buzzer under Jose Altuve's jersey last October:
They're tough enough and talented enough to make it back into the American League Championship Series for the fourth year in a row after a regular season under 500.
They did what they did so far in the postseason without Justin Verlander, one of the great pitchers of his generation.
Giancarlo Stanton has been shrinking ball parks since the Wild Card series began as Bryson DeChambeau golf courses are shrinking.
And imagine the hand pressing when he makes Augusta National look like a par-3 course at the Masters next month.
It sure is a good thing that Dave Gettleman got rid of this Beckham guy.
By the way, what happened to him?
When I switched back to baseball the other night, I expected Mike Pence to cut the announcer.
We know the president continued on this steroid regimen after testing positive for COVID-19, but here is my question, which has only tracked his behavior since then:
Shouldn't steroids be performance enhancers?
(Mike Lupica is a sports columnist for the New York Daily News.)
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