Yikes. Well my Week 4 picks didn’t go so well, thanks to two athletes who are quite similar, Tony Romo and Alex Rodriguez. We’ll get to the Week 5 NFL picks in a little bit, but if you recall one of my bets last week was the Yankees beating the Tigers in the ALDS. I also proclaimed that Jose Valverde’s consecutive saves streak would come to and end, and while it nearly did, well, it didn’t.
So what happened to the 2011 New York Yankees? We’ve had a little time to digest the Yanks’ postseason failure, and I’m going to take what will probably be a very unpopular view on this. This Yankees team actually overachieved. By a lot.
Yeah, it’s possible for a team with the highest payroll in the sport to overachieve.
Heading into the season, all the “experts” had the Red Sox winning the AL East and going to the World Series. And for good reason. Who wouldn’t have picked the BoSox with their rotation of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, a bullpen with the second best closer in the game (I think so at least), and a lineup that is stacked with multiple MVP candidates? If in February you would have told me that the Yankees would lose Alex Rodriguez for about half the season, Mark Teixeira would hit under .250, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon (it is 2011!!!) would start 51 games combined, Derek Jeter would have a DL stint, A.J. Burnett would have an ERA in the fives and Rafael Soriano would pitch only 39 innings – and with all that the Yankees would win 97 games and win the division by six games, I probably would have told you to check into rehab immediately.
The fact of the matter is is that the Yankees were gritty and gutted their way through 162 games. Sure, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson had MVP-type seasons, with the latter putting up otherworldy numbers. Teixeria had good power numbers but let’s face it, it was a down year for him. Throw in all the Jorge Posada drama, and it wasn’t an easy task winning 97 games by any stretch. This season should go down as a good one for the Yankees. You can’t win it every year.
But in Yankees Universe we have to dissect the playoff meltdowns, and it really doesn’t get much easier than looking at the middle of the lineup. The Yankees simply needed much, much more out of their four, five and six hitters. A-Rod hasn’t been A-Rod all year, but he was vintage postseason A-Rod this year, and he’s starting to prove that his gargantuan 2009 playoff performance was an aberration. Rodriguez will be around for six more years, and thank goodness there is no salary cap in baseball. Additionally, it might be time for the Yankees to try something else in right field. Nick Swisher is a good player, seems like a great guy and teammate, and the fans like him. But man, how much more deer-in-the-headlights could you get than Swisher in the postseason? Is it really worth the solid regular seasons if he’s going to be an automatic out in October? There are plenty of other players who could play a good right field with a solid bat and have a better approach at the plate in a big situation.
And I think Joe Girardi had a really rough time this postseason. Yanking Ivan Nova so early in Game 5 sent a message to the whole team that he was in panic mode. The Yankees can spin “forearm tightness” for Nova all they want. Girardi freaked out and pulled Nova. He also mismanaged the end of Game 2 by essentially giving away a run by bringing in Luis Ayala, a run that proved not costly but surely important. Girardi doesn’t need to be fired or anything, but he needs to learn from his poor managing the past two postseasons.
The future isn’t dark for the Yankees. Offensively they’ll be built around Cano and Granderson for the next few seasons, with Rodriguez and Teixiera of course capable of putting up big numbers. The pitching may lend itself to a youth movement, with Nova joining Sabathia and Phil Hughes in the rotation full time without the fear of being sent down (although maybe Girardi will pull him every time he gives up a few runs in the first two innings). Burnett will be back (it is what it is), and the Yankees can look to their youth with Dellin Betances or Hector Noesi for the fifth spot. The bullpen will be good as long as Rivera is around.
The Yankees are home early, and any first round loss stings. But fans should take a step back and look at the whole season, and realize that it could have been much, much worse.
And now, on to the picks -
Eagles -3 at Bills
The Eagles are a talented team and they are desperate. The Bills are a nice story, but I don’t think many people see them being a serious playoff threat. The Eagles won’t go 1-4. If they do, Andy Reid better walk around Cheesesteak Town in disguise.
Atlanta +6 vs Green Bay
I’m taking six points with Matt Ryan/Mike Smith at home. I think the Packers could very well win the game, but it will be close. One of the better games of the weekend.
Steelers -3 vs. Titans
I’ll take the Steelers at home off a bad loss. I know the Steelers are banged up, and very much like the Jets, look a little slow and old. But I think Mike Tomlin rallies the team, and at home, they don’t lose to a team quarterbacked by Matt Hasselbeck.
Saints -6.5 at Carolina
No spread is too high for the Saints these days. It could be a shootout, but I think the Saints put up a ton of points.
Non-Football Bonus Bet of the Week
NBA Playing entire season: 8-5
Yes, you can actually bet on this. Things sound a little uplifting recently, with David Stern caving a bit and offering the players close to 50% in revenue. Too much at stake for both sides, I think they get it done.