Jim Baumbach is an investigative / enterprise sports reporter for Newsday. A Long Island native, he started working
For Yankees fans looking ahead to the playoffs - and what else is there to do right now? - we know you're dreading the pesky Angels.
Hey, no reason to deny it. The fact is no team has had as much success against the Yankees in recent years as Mike Scioscia's club has. Not even the Red Sox.
As the standings are set now, the Yankees wouldn't potentially face the Angels until the ALCS. So it's far from time to get yourselves worked up. But it's certainly a question worth asking. Why can't they beat the Angels?
Here are three major reasons:
1) Speed kills.
Scioscia's teams always force the Yankees' hand with their legs, whether it's taking the extra base or trying to steal a bag.
For several years, the Yankees have talked about Chone Figgins as if he's Ichiro Lite; the guy has a knack for hitting a single and the next thing they know, he's standing on third.
The problem facing the Yankees if they do face the Angels this postseason is just how much of a detriment Jorge Posada's arm will be.
Posada has thrown out 29 percent of would-be stealers this season, but that's a far cry from his 37 percent in 2006.
The only certainty here is that the Angels like to test him. They stole four bases off him (in five chances) during their 14-8 win July 11.
2) West Coast woes.
Ask any hitter to name his favorite stadium and chances are Anaheim is on the list. Not only is the weather great, but hitters always rave about how easy it is to see pitches in that park.
Yet how come the Yankees have lost eight of their last nine games there? Going as far back as through the 2004 season, the Yankees are 21-36 in Anaheim, including the 2005 ALDS.
What gives? Well, their biggest trouble in that park has been erasing deficits. The last time they won a game in Anaheim in which they trailed going into the seventh inning was July 24, 2005. That was 18 games ago.
3) In their heads?
Twice this decade the Angels eliminated the Yankees, a major factor in this rivalry.
Yes, only four players remain from the 2002 team that lost the ALDS in four games. And only six current Yankees were there in 2005 when they lost to the Angels in the first round.
Doesn't sound like a lot, right? But when the names are Jeter, Rodriguez, Posada, Rivera, Matsui and Cano, it's significant. (Pettitte was there in 2002 but not 2005.)
Bottom line: There's a history there. And it has to be hard for these guys to ignore that.
Starting Monday in Anaheim, finding a way to win, oh, two of these three games could go a long way for the Yankees, mentally speaking. Just in case there's a repeat meeting next month. Who said there's nothing left to play for?