I hate to say it, but I was right. Two weeks ago, I said this AL East race was far from over-simply because of two factors.
1) Boston teams, in particular the Red Sox, have a history of blowing leads. When the Fenway boys are in first place, they always seem to lay up a little bit. The Red Sox, in general, just seemed to lack intensity the last few weeks. Which, in baseball or anything else in life, is a bad idea. Once you have a team in the grave, bury them expeditiously.
2) Storied franchises will never leave a postseason race quietly. This might come as a shock, but the Yankees are one of those teams. The Canadiens did it to the Bruins in 2004 when Boston had a three games to one series lead and Montreal came back to win the series in seven games.
At press time, the Yankees held a one game lead in the AL East. It is my hope that things stay that way, with the teams in a dead-heat heading into the weekend.
A seven-game series can sometimes emotionally drain a team if the competition is really intense. That was the case for the Yankees in 2003 when they were just too exhausted from a tough series with the Red Sox, and the Marlins ended up beating them in six games during the World Series. A three-game series, however, would only give the winner an aura that no team has in the AL right now. This three-game series is the first round of the playoffs for both teams. Anytime the Sox and Yankees play each other, it's like a postseason atmosphere. With the Indians likely to get the wild card, the first one or two games at Fenway will decide who wins the East.
If we're going to have a pennant race come down to the wire, I want it to be really interesting. I want to see Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson face each other on short rest. I want David Ortiz to win the first game of the series only to have A-Rod carry the Yankees to victory the next day. It should be one game to decide the division, which would result in good fortune for the winner.
The way the American League is right now, any team can win it. It's just a matter of who gets hot at the right moment. And the team who wins a three-game series against its rivals to knock them out of postseason would make the winner of the series more than playoff-ready. It would give them a championship swagger that would carry them to the World Series.
On a personal note, if the Yankees do win the series, I want it to be by A-Rod, Jeter or someone who is of legend status. I can live with that and sleep (almost) soundly. It would be painful to witness if Robinson Cano or Bubba Crosby got hot on the weekend and won it.
Why couldn't Jeter have hit that home run during the 2003 Game Seven in Yankee Stadium instead of Aaron Boone? Or Reggie Jackson back in 1978 instead of Bucky Dent? There would be no shame for the Sox if an all-star player or a possible MVP winner takes the series for his team.
It's the backup players that irritate me.
Yet, it would be even crueler if Mark Bellhorn was to hit the game-winning home run that clinched the pennant for the Bronx bombers. The Red Sox released Bellhorn this season, only to have him picked up by the Yankees. That just adds to the overall drama, doesn't it?
Anything can happen tomorrow. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what develops.