ALDS Game 1 Thoughts: Land of Hope and Dreams

Back in February I did a retro recap of the NFC Championship Game and then also wrote down my thoughts from Super Bowl XLVI and those teams game played out nicely, so I decided to take it one step further and do the same for every Yankees playoff game this October. Here are some thoughts from Game 1 of the ALDS.

– I’m so scared of “Land of Hope and Dreams” forever being associated with postseason failure. I love the song and can’t get enough of it even with TBS playing it 79 times during each game. I liked “Written In the Stars” and still do, but whenever I hear it I think of the Yankees losing to the Tigers in the 2011 ALDS. I think of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher leaving men on base every time through the order and I see Ivan Nova giving up two solo home runs in Game 5 and Joe Girardi using Luis Ayala before a rested David Robertson and Mariano Rivera. But when I hear the Black Eyed Peas’ “Meet Me Halfway” I think of the 2009 playoffs and all of the glorious memories. When I hear Nonpoint’s version of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” I think of the 2004 playoffs and I start to cry. Please don’t let “Land of Hope and Dreams” forever be associated with negativity.

– Derek Jeter is the all-time Yankees hits leader. Derek Jeter is the all-time postseason hits leader. Derek Jeter was Major League Baseball’s hits leader this year. He sounds like a good candidate for a sacrifice bunt in a tie game, right? No, not at all. Like Stevie Janowski tells Reg Mackworthy in Eastbound and Down, “No bunts! No bunting!” But Joe Girardi will stop at nothing when it comes to sacrifice bunting and no matter what the outcome of the bunt is, he will bunt in the same situation from Sunday night every single time.

– If anyone ever says CC Sabathia isn’t an ace, they’re wrong. CC was a beast on Sunday night and had his best postseason start since 2009 after rocky Octobers in 2010 and 2011. He’s now 6-1 in 11 postseason starts for the Yankees, and oh yeah, he’s 74-29 with a 3.22 ERA in four years in the regular season. That’s 74 and 29. He’s averaging an 18-7 record with a 3.22 ERA in 32 starts over four seasons with the Yankees. If he isn’t an “ace” then who is?

– I’m going to talk about Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher together because they are all one unit once the postseason stats. The success of the Yankees will be determined by these three and whether or not they can hit with runners in scoring position, or really hit at all. Before the series I said that either A-Rod or Teixeira and Swisher need to hit. I only expect one of the first two to come through (and that looks like Teixeira right now) since asking both of them to come through would be asking too much. You wouldn’t win the lottery and then expect to win it again, would you? In Game 1, Teixeira and Swisher showed up and A-Rod didn’t and the Yankees won. My theory for postseason success is now a proven formula.

– A lot of people complain about Russell Martin’s bat and of course this complaining comes when the Yankees are losing. FYI: Russell Martin plays catcher. He isn’t a Yankee because of his bat and any offense he can provide should be viewed as extra, but not needed. If the Yankees’ offensive problems are ever blamed on Martin it’s because the guys who are here to hit aren’t. (A-Rod, cough, cough. Teixeira, cough, cough). Martin was the MVP of Game 1 and during the game there was a Jason Hammel fastball that missed his head by an inch that might have forced us to see a lot of Chris Stewart this October. Instead Martin dodged the high heat, made an incredible fielding play, looked like Henrik Lundqvist behind the plate and then showed his muscle with a leadoff home run in the ninth inning. If Martin goes hitless in Games 2 or 3, you will start to hear moans about how bad he is offensively, but he has already done his job offensively for this series.

– Until the ninth inning, Game 1 felt like a continuation of the 2011 ALDS. I really thought I was watching a sixth game against the Tigers from last October. Baserunners every inning and men in scoring position all over the place and nothing to show for it. If the Yankees lost Game 1 after all of the chances they blew in the first eight innings they would have ruined Columbus Day for me.

– How is Cal Ripken doing the Yankees-Orioles series? I don’t care if the broadcast team was determined before the outcome of the one-game playoff. You can’t have the Orioles’ most iconic player sitting in the booth and trying to act objective at Camden Yards’ first playoff game since he played. Ripken was a centerpiece of the Yankees-Orioles rivalry and he’s supposed to not openly root for the Orioles on national TV? If TBS can get away with that then John Sterling’s broadcast might as well double as the national radio feed if you want to really say “Eff it!” when it comes to objectivity for postseason games.

– How about Cal Ripken trying to reverse jinx CC Sabathia while facing Adam Jones and Matt Wieters late in the game? Ripken was talking up Sabathia’s ability to get the duo out so much that it would have made Michael Kay proud if the opposite result happened. Ripken might want to wear a suit to Game 2 because I’m not sure if wearing his actual Orioles uniform with dirt on it should be allowed again.

– John Smoltz was excellent on the broadcast of the game. Maybe Ben Cherington and the Red Sox will think that because he is great at talking about pitching that he is still great at actually pitching and bring him back for the 2013 rotation. I think it would be a good idea. Run prevention!

– I hate Lew Ford. That’s all there really is there. I have a bad feeling Lew Ford is going to dagger the Yankees in one of these games (he tried to in Game 1) and I’m not capable of handling a 35-year-old journeyman who last played in the league in 2007 being responsible for the outcome of a playoff game.

– I think there needs to be a rule or law in place that prohibits fan bases from chanting their team name if it exceeds six letters. “O-R-I-O-L-E-S!” is a bit much and I’m not even sure everyone was spelling it right. If Orioles fans are going to do this then I’m all for Columbus Blue Jackets fans (if there are any) doing the same thing.

– “Yankees Suck!” chants have always puzzled me. It has always been kind of awkward and embarrassing to sit at Fenway Park and have an inferior fan base start chanting this, but then again those are the same fans that will sing and sway to “Sweet Caroline” for a last-place team losing by five runs in the eighth inning, so it has never really bothered me. It also doesn’t bother me that Camden Yards has now taken over as the “Yankees Suck!” haven since the Red Sox are irrelevant, but really Orioles fans? It’s your first playoff game since I was in sixth grade. Orioles fans chanting “Yankees Suck!” would be like UMass students chanting “Safety School!” while playing Harvard. It just doesn’t make sense.

One down, 10 to go. This train carries Andy Pettitte in Game 2.