David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
DETROIT - The World Series isn't won during the winter. And despite a flurry of big-talent trades this season on deadline day, it's looking like we can say the same thing about the month of July.
Unless, of course, the Yankees somehow get to the Fall Classic on the backs of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Chris Capuano.
Not the blockbusters that immediately came to mind?
Oh right. You were thinking of the A's deals for Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester. Or the Tigers' acquisition of David Price, a move orchestrated by GM Dave Dombrowski as a counterpunch to Billy Beane's stockpiling of arms in Oakland.
But with everyone imagining an ALCS showdown between these two Dream Team pitching staffs, a funny thing happened. Reality intervened. More regular-season games had to be played. And we discovered for the millionth time that the best-laid plans often are not worth the paper they're written on.
The A's, who were 25 games over .500 (66-41) at the deadline, are 11-13 since trading for Lester. They also have slipped to second place in the AL West, 11/2 games behind the Angels.
The Tigers? Since the Price deal July 31, Detroit is 13-13, and the Yankees throttled their old AL East buddy during Wednesday night's 8-4 victory at Comerica Park. Needing to follow up on Rick Porcello's gem, Price killed Detroit's momentum in short order with an historically bad performance.
The Yankees bounced Price with nine consecutive hits in the third inning -- he didn't record an out -- then added a pair of sacrifice flies off reliever Blaine Hardy to take an 8-0 lead. That one inning alone raised Price's opponents' batting average from .227 to .237 and his Tigers' ERA soared from 2.35 to 4.41.
"Probably the worst game I've ever had in my life," Price said. "I let the team down."
This, mind you, with Prado batting in the third spot, another of Joe Girardi's recent maneuvers with the ever-changing Yankees lineup. Just last week, Brian Cashman was fretting over the Yankees' futility at the plate, and called their inability to hit with runners in scoring position a "disaster."
But after losing two straight in the Bronx to the pitiful Astros, the Yankees have won six of seven, with Girardi shuffling his batting order more than at any other point this season. Prado, Headley and Drew all have played significant roles. Asked if these Yankees are a tougher lineup to face, and a bigger challenge than earlier this season, Price agreed. "I would say so," he said. "The guys they have now are producing more than the guys they had before, yeah."
As a result, the Yankees are 14-10 since Cashman finally hung up his phone July 31, one game better than their previous three-over-. 500 pace (55-52). In plugging holes with a minimal cost in talent, Cashman was able to complement the core group that had been playing well. "I think overall, in terms of grading us on solving pitching problems, we're probably going to grade out better than most," Cashman said last week. "There wasn't a big bat moved anywhere. Somebody can point to [Yoenis] Cespedes, but you had to give up a Lester to get him."
The Yankees didn't have a Lester. Nor did they possess an Addison Russell, the highly rated shortstop prospect the A's shipped to the Cubs for Samardzija and Hammel. Cashman could have used Price but was told flat-out by the Rays they weren't trading their ace to the Yankees. Period.
Instead, the Tigers got Price, giving them a third Cy Young winner for the rotation. But Price was outpitched Wednesday night by Shane Greene, the Yankees' rookie making his ninth start.
"Sometimes it just happens," Girardi said. "The game doesn't always make sense."
No one has to tell that to the A's or Tigers. Originally, Justin Verlander was supposed to start Thursday's finale, but he was moved back a day to give him extra time to recover from shoulder soreness. So with the series hanging in the balance, Detroit will rely on lefthander Kyle Lobstein.
After what the Yankees just did to Price, they have to be feeling pretty good about their chances.