END OF THE LINE
Josh Beckett pitched a complete game shutout and the Marlins beat the Yankees 2-0 before an energetic crowd at Yankee Stadium to become World Champs. Andy Pettitte pitched a good game as well, but the Bombers made several mistakes in the field which again, proved costly. As good as Beckett was—and there is no two ways about it, he was brilliant—the Yankees inability to hit in the clutch sealed their fate.
According to Buster Olney:
The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners on base, sabotaged by their offense, as they had been throughout the World Series, and now New York faces an uncertain future with many changes imminent: volatile owner George Steinbrenner is bound to make extensive alterations to a franchise that is just starting to list, because of advancing age and increasingly impulsive personnel decisions.
The game was scoreless in the fifth when the Marlins connected with back-to-back, two-out singles. Pettitte then struggled to put away Luis Castillo; with two strikes Castillo eventually slapped an outside breaking ball to right for a base hit. Karim Garcia fielded the ball and made a strong throw home, but Jorge Posada was out of position, and Alex Gonzalez made a nifty play to avoid the tag and Florida had a 1-0 lead. (The throw was slightly up the line, but if Posada had been behind the plate, he would have had a great chance to record the out.) Pettitte intentionally walked Pudge Rodriguez and then came back to whiff Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded to get out of the inning.
The Stadium crowd was as loud as I can remember it being in the bottom of the third inning when the Yankees had runners on first and second with just one out. (Until late in the game, the crowd did its best to pump the team up.) Bernie Williams worked Beckett deep into the count, but then hit into a double play to end the frame. Derek Jeter struck out with a runner on second base to end the fifth, and then made an error to start the sixth on a ground ball off the bat of Jeff Conine. (Jeter was 0-4 proving that even “Mr. Clutch” himself—if you believe in such a thing—is human.)
Pettitte then walked Mike Lowell and Derrek Lee came on to sacrifice the runners over. He bunted the ball directly to Pettitte who inexplicably went to second base to get the first out. Soriano could not complete the double play. Apparently Posada was yelling for him to go to third, but Pettitte didn’t hear him. With runners on the corner, and just one out, Juan Encarnacion’s soft fly ball to right was deep enough to score the Marlins second run.
That was all they would need, as Josh Beckett stymied the Yankee hitters with an array of change ups, sharp breaking balls, and blazing fastballs.
The talk in New York will quickly shift from the Yankees’ suffocating defeat to who gets the blame for losing a World Series.
The question seems ridiculous, unless you’re in the Yankees’ universe, where success and failure are determined by championships. There will be finger-pointing and talk of trades and shakeups, but please: let today be a day of introspection and humility.
As dejected as I felt after the game, I wasn’t furious. (Larry Mahnken got it right when he writes that he feels frustration more than anything else.) It didn’t sting watching the Marlins celebrate as it had when the Yanks lost to Arizona a few years back, or even when the Angels beat them last year. The Yankees simply didn’t play well enough win, even though they could have won each game they lost in this Serious. If you’ve followed them all year, there was nothing shocking about the way in which they lost. Yup, poor fielding and poor hitting overwhelmed their good pitching. But as David Pinto notes, it wasn’t exactly like the Marlins were great offensively either:
The Yankees offense isn’t perfect like in was in 1998, but I’d much rather have the Yankees lineup than the Marlins lineup. The Marlins won because they were able to take advantage of local weakness in the Yankee lineup (the bottom of the order), injuries (Giambi) and slumps (Soriano). They also got lucky with the one bad managerial move Torre made in the series, leaving Jeff Weaver on the mound in game 4.
And it wasn’t exactly like the Marlins were wizards with men in scoring position. They hit .233 as a team in the series, which while better than the Yankees, it did not result in any more runs, as both teams had 14 RBI with their limited success in that situation.
There was nothing special about Scott Brosius or Jim Leyritz or Tino Martinez. They were decent players on a great team, and they all got lucky, just like Alex Gonzalez got lucky in this series. And sometimes, that’s all you need to win a championship.
What hurts is that the Yankees were so close to another title. Who knows when they’ll ever get so close again? But hell, the Cubs haven’t been back to Serious since 1945, so all considering it could be far worse. I feel more resigned and wistful than enraged or bitter. Had the Yankees played better and then lost, that would have been something different. But they didn’t deserve to win, so what can you do but shrug your shoulders, and appreciate what the Marlins have accomplished? Joe Sheehan opines:
The Marlins did a lot of things right in the World Series. They finally got the good starting pitching that, Beckett aside, had eluded them on the way there. They didn’t beat themselves in the field; other than Brad Penny’s misplay of a bunt in Game Five, I’m hard-pressed to remember any Marlins’ fielding miscues. The Yankees seemed to have one a game, from blown rundowns to bobbles–Derek Jeter’s sixth-inning error last night led to a critical insurance run–to plays that their fielders, with their limited range, just couldn’t make.
The Marlins did what they had to do to win. The Yankees didn’t. Flags fly forever.
The end of the World Series caps what was an amazing stretch of baseball. I’ll let historians pass the final judgment, but for me and the postseasons I’ve experienced, this series ranks right there with 1991 and 1986 for quality of play, for drama, and for sheer enjoyment.
Still, this was another great year for the Yankees, in spite of all the mishigoss that enveloped them. And it was a sweet ride for us fans as well. When the pain of losing the Serious slips away over the next few days, or the next week, we will have some wonderful memories of the 2003 season, most significantly beating the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS.
For now, there is some emptiness, and that’s OK. There are sure to be changes, both good and bad this off season. Quite frankly, I think I’m less upset that the Yankees lost than I am about the fact that baseball has finally ended and there won’t be another game today. It is unseasonably warm and muggy in New York: feels like there should be another game to play.