Results tagged ‘ Tony Dungy ’

Yanks clinched trying to clinch

For so long we heard about how the Yankees were playing not for the American League East title and not just to clinch a post-season berth, which seemed inevitable only four short days ago. Mariano Rivera was even quoted in the New York Post as saying that the players would not celebrate clinching a playoff spot but to wait until they had clinched the division title.

It is beginning to look as if they wait that long the Yankees would sip any champagne at all.

That was the situation they found themselves in Saturday night after a second straight loss to the Red Sox following two straight losses to the Rays, who have overtaken the Yankees for the AL East lead and are amid playing a string of games against last-place teams while the Bombers are matched against their hated rivals this weekend and next with a stop in unfriendly Toronto in between.

Saturday’s game followed the same pattern as Friday night’s. The Yankees fell behind by a lot early and had to claw back into the game while counting on the second tier of the bullpen to keep matters close. It didn’t work either time.

Not even a pep talk from Tony Dungy could help. I must say that I was a bit skeptical about that. Yankees manager Joe Girardi is a long-time admirer of Dungy and was gratified to have the former NFL coach and current TV analyst say a few words, which centered on the attributes of family, faith and sticking together as a team when the going gets rough.

I admit I don’t know all that much about pro football, but I seem to remember that Dungy was the coach of a Colts team that had a chance to run the table a few years ago but tanked the last game to have players fresh for the playoffs. Was that justified when they won it all? Not to me. Did the Colts win the Super Bowl because they had rested players or BECAUSE THEY HAD PEYTON MANNING?

At least Dungy’s Indianapolis football players had their playoff berth clinched before taking a blow in the final game. The Yankees haven’t clinched anything, although we all know it would take a miracle for the Red Sox to get back into the wild-card mix. Despite winning the past two nights, they are still 5 games behind the Yankees with eight to play.

Yet the reason for that partially has been the Yankees’ lack of going for the jugular by using lineups minus resting veterans and not over-taxing bullpen arms. Sunday’s starting pitcher is Dustin Moseley, not Phil Hughes. Girardi defends his maneuvering by saying that he has managed the same way all season. On that score he is correct, and on that defense the Yankees’ case rests.

Yankees fans surely remember the September collapse the team had in 2000 when a pitching staff breakdown led to their losing 15 of their last 18 games and wheezing to the playoffs with 87 victories. That they ended up winning the World Series has been used as a sign of encouragement for the fans.

But this is a different team – older at many of the positions and a pitching staff with as many growing question marks. The wild card may not be the Yankees’ only ticket to the post-season, which would mean needing to have CC Sabathia win two games on the road rather than giving him the luxury of starting at Yankee Stadium where he has been mostly dazzling for two years.

CC won’t like this, by the way, but Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester improved his Cy Young Award credentials with seven shutout innings in improving his record to 19-8 with a 2.96 ERA.

What seems missing in this series from the Yankees is the passion and grit of a team trying to nail down a playoff spot.

Who knows? Maybe it’s contagious. In the seventh inning, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli leaned over the railing of the Red Sox dugout to try for a foul ball. Cervelli would have crashed to the floor but was held up by Boston pitching coach John Farrell, catcher Victor Martinez and outfielder Daniel Nava. Martinez then lifted Cervelli back onto the field unharmed.

Somehow, I don’t think the Red Sox of old would have done that for Thurman Munson.

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