That would be Mission Impossible: Reverse time.
New York cab drivers say some players thrive under New York pressure. Others wilt. This has always seemed like psychobabble to me. But as the size of the data sample of these New Yankees has grown, it might be true.
Except for the occasional breakout, such as A-Rod in the ’09 Series, these guys do little, year after year. What you saw in the Yankees’ dugout, after Jeter was helped off the field in Game 1 after he fractured his left ankle, is the truth about the current team. Once things start to roll against them in the postseason, they sit apart. They tighten up. To a degree, they might even quit.
Not long ago, the great Yankees of the early Jeter era had as good, or even better, stats in the playoffs as they did in the regular season. Rivera went from the best closer ever (2.21 career ERA) to the best pressure performer in any sport in his generation (0.70 ERA in 96 games). That was the old standard.
Even if you grew up far from New York, had no Yankee-loving relatives and understood that “Hating the Yankees” was as American as ice cream, you still had to respect and, okay, admire those Yanks.
But what about these Yanks who batted a collective .188 in the postseason? They are almost all homer-or-nothing sluggers. That’s what General Manager Brian Cashman wanted for the new bandbox Yankee Stadium with the joke porch in right. But a warped park encourages distorted playing styles. The Yanks set a team record with 245 homers this season, but it led them only astray. The less they scored, the harder they swung and the worse they hit.
It’s hard to find a late-’90s Yank who was a lousy playoff hitter. But there was one. He was in 12 postseason series, yet batted just .184 and had a pitcher-like OPS of .463, far below his career norm: Joe Girardi, now the Yankees manager. At least he knows what his players are feeling.
This will be remembered as a season when the old Yanks-Red-Sox-Phils order shifted and those teams, such as the Rangers and Angels, who copied them failed to supplant them at the top. Traditional names will meet in the World Series, but not the very biggest spenders.
For $788 million, you can buy 12 wins. It’s almost enough to give money a bad name.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/