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Friday, June 12, 2009

The Yankees, Unobstructed June 12

The Yankees Bend Easily Under Pressure

"All that glitters is not gold." Shakespeare understood the folly of shiny-trinket obsession approximately 410 years ago, when he wrote The Merchant of Venice. The Boston Red Sox front office seems to understand that concept now. In fact, most of the baseball world gets it. The Yankees though, they might as well just be the Prince of Morocco, forever selecting the glittering gold casket.

I apologize for the melodrama. I also get this way after someone punches me in the stomach.

Quick reader poll, what was the ugliest play of the Yankees-Red Sox series?

A)Nick Swisher's baserunning gaffe
B)Nick Swisher's fielding gaffe
C)Nick Swisher's other baserunning gaffe
D)Me sobbing in the corner, using my sorrow-purchase Big Mac to wipe away tears

(This poll is up and running on my True/Slant page. Feel free to vote.)

In the five weeks between sweeps by Boston, the Yankees sure looked golden. They lost on consecutive days only once (in the two games following the first sweep), and won 22 of 31 games. During that stretch, the Yankees played like the most talented team in baseball. Because they are.

So should we look at these losses, as the Yankees keep insisting, in the context of the "big picture," or should we consider them a harbinger of something more?

The Bombers may very well go on to win the division this season, but what can we really expect from them in the playoffs? This is a team that has had eight "playoff atmosphere" games so far this year, and has lost every single one of them.

It is conceivable that this is just some sort of collective "Boston complex." Maybe the Yankees really are the best team in baseball and as long as they don't meet the Red Sox in the playoffs, they'll be fine.

This weekend will be a big test. For the New York teams, the Subway Series is probably the most pressure-filled non-pennant race set of games each season. If they can notch a couple of wins against the similarly hapless Mets, one might argue that the Yankees don't have clutch-confidence issues.

Perhaps it really is just Boston that brings out the Yankees lamest efforts.

However, if the Yankees cannot muster production against their crosstown rivals this weekend, it will be time to accept them for what they are: glittering shiny gold. Flashy, but extremely malleable under pressure.

NOTE: Make sure to check back every Wednesday for Pinstripe Politics, your source for that gray area where the Yankees and society converge. Also, check in with the BNN on Fridays for The Yankees, Unobstructed, our weekly Yankee opinion column.

For more of Graham Kates' sports writing, check out his True/Slant blog "Coaches in the Crosshairs" (www.trueslant.com/grahamkates).


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