You might recall that, in the Yankees' championship run of 2009, their offense was uneven. While Alex Rodriguez was a monster, Derek Jeter was stellar and Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui produced memorable moments, the younger group - particularly Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Teixeira - really struggled to get going. And Granderson entered having committed a key misplay (scroll down) in his one previous postseason, 2006 with the Tigers.
But last night, when CC Sabathia didn't have anything close to his best stuff and Minnesota's Francisco Liriano looked dominant early, the Yankees prevailed due to the length of their lineup; Swisher and Cano also contributed with important hits. It is a very good lineup.
--How can the Twins not be severely shaken at this point? They had their shot - up 3-0 to Sabathia, with their ace on the hill, and they just couldn't get it done. They even played stronger fundamental baseball, capitalizing on Sabathia's failure to cover first base on Joe Mauer's grounder to first. Mark Teixeira had to dive to tag first, and that allowed speedy Orlando Hudson to advance all the way from first to third, where Alex Rodriguez wasn't covering.
Yeah, yeah, we know - momentum is the next day's starting pitcher. But these are human beings we're talking about here. The Twins have to feel dispirited right now.
--Sabathia really looked off. According to the local scribes (or at least, one local scribe - Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune), Michael Cuddyer's second-inning blast to straightaway centerfield marked only the fourth homer to that area in Target Field's initial season. The others? Tampa Bay's Matt Jocye, the Twins' Jim Thome and Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion.
Knowing Sabathia, though, I'd guess that he wasn't gassed from the long season as much as he was out of rhythm from his seven-day rest. I think he'll be fine for his Game 4 start, if it's even necessary.
--Joe Girardi had an outstanding first night. Granderson came up with the big hit, and the bullpen moves worked out very well. Mariano Rivera looked fine coming in for the four-out save...
--...which, of course, should've been over one batter earlier. Greg Golson made a shoestring catch on Delmon Young's line drive with two outs in the ninth. One look at the replay confirmed that rightfield umpire Chris Guccione blew it.
Look at it this way: Of the 30 big-league managers who completed the 2010 season, Girardi might be the most physically fit. He's easily in the top five. And yet, in the few seconds it took him to scurry onto the field to challenge the call, another umpire - sitting in a replay booth - could've looked at the replay and overruled the call, and justice would've been done.
More replay, please. No, it's not perfect. But you'd get far more calls right than they do now. It's only a matter of time.
--Nice fake-out attempt by A-Rod in the bottom of the eighth. With one out and pinch runner Jason Repko on first base, Danny Valencia hit a slow grounder to third. A-Rod couldn't get Valencia, so he motioned to first and then whipped the ball to second, where Robinson Cano tried to catch Repko sleeping off the bag. But Repko got back in time.
Of course, you know that, had that been Derek Jeter trying that, Repko would've slipped on a drop of water, Cano would've tagged him out and Jeter would've been awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his grace under pressure.
--Here's the rest of our Yankees coverage.
--I'm not even sure what I can say about Roy Halladay, except that it sure must've been phenomenal for the Phillies fans who were there. Good for Halladay, who forced his way out of Toronto in about as classy a manner as such an act can be done (he kept it as quiet as he could) and immediately showed that his postseason debut was worth the wait.
--Of the possibly available candidates, I would tab Sandy Alderson as my number one choice to become the Mets' general manager. Alderson has pretty much everything you'd want - a World Series ring (he built the A's of the late 1980s), a large enough personality to handle New York, supreme intelligence, open-mindedness.
As David Lennon notes in his story, Bud Selig would very likely be in favor of such a move, even if it meant Alderson leaving his current gig as Major League Baseball's clean-up man in the Dominican Republic. That situation is a black hole. There are no "Mission Accomplished" banners ready to go up there any time soon.
And I think Jeff Wilpon would support it, too. Given how sensitive the Mets are to the notion that Wilpon meddles, nothing would refute that perception more than hiring someone of Alderson's accomplishments.
How would Alderson react if Jeff Wilpon tried to hone improperly on his territory? Well, there's a line that Jack Palance's character says to Billy Crystal's character in "City Slickers" that pretty much nails it. I can't say it here, given we're a family publication, but you can figure it out if you look hard enough.
--There seems to be an awful lot of hand-wringing in Boston over what to do about David Ortiz this winter, and I don't quite get it. It couldn't be an easier decision: Exercise the one-year, $12.5-million option for 2011, and then revisit the situation a year from now.
The Red Sox can afford to take a one-year, big-dollar risk. They understand that the real risk comes not in dollars, but in years. Ortiz enjoyed enough of a renaissance season to make you think that he can offer something for the team next year.
Ortiz's feelings on the matter? Irrelevant. He signed the contract with the option. If he whines about the option being picked up, then he risks not getting another deal.
--I'll check in later from Target Field.