While you can call it the greatest comeback in baseball history, which it was, you can also call it the greatest collapse in baseball history. The Yankees with a 3-0 league clammed up and stopped figuring out how to win while the Red Sox were focused on every pitch and every at bat trying to get to the next game. While you can excuse a little bit of a relaxed atmosphere among the Yankees after spanking Boston 19-8 and going up 3-0, it was an uneasy feeling even after the Sox won game 4 with a David Ortiz home run.
What did the Yankees do after that?
They seemed to jog off the field in anticipation of the next game. And what did they do after Ortiz singled in the winning run in the 14th inning the next night? They seemed to jog off the field in anticipation of the next game. And what did they do after losing game 6? You know the drill.
There wasn’t any sense of urgency, nobody in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to be seething with the competitive fire that’s necessary in the post-season. Where were the leaders? Starting with their captain, Derek Jeter, they seemed to forget how to win. The Yankees are super talented, chisled and well dressed. The Red Sox seemed to try to portray themselves at the opposite. They grew their beards, they messed up their helmets and wore their uniforms baggy. So what! The Sox were just as talented and it showed on the field. Even Joe Torre said after game 6, “We’re evenly matched, so now we’re tied. What else is there to say?”
But Torre failed to mention heart.
Did you see the Red Sox players hugging each other in the dugout? When was the last time Gary Sheffield hugged anybody? Alex Rodriguez is easy to root for. He’s talented and plays the game impecably. But with runners in scoring positon, Rodriguez was a .250 hitter. And with two outs he was down around .200. The Yankees needed a grinder in this series and they didn’t have one.
It’s now four years in a row that they’ve had enough talent to win the World Series, but haven’t come home with the hardware. Should we expect a George Steinbrenner meltdown? Probably not, but a real evaluation of the team’s psyche is in order. Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Goose Gossage, even Reggie Jackson seemed to have that intangible that translated to their teammates when it came to crunch time. This version of the Yankees seemed to check their briefcase before going up to bat. What they should have been looking for was their heart.