Sunday, September 30, 2007

Four Reasons the Yankees Will Not Advance

The Royal Rooters spent quite a bit of their time engaged in debate about the rival Boston Braves. The Braves are now long gone and have been replaced by an even more bitter rival - the New York Yankees. So, in the spirit of The Royal Rooters, I thought I'd take a moment to put the Yankees in their place. Here are five reasons why the Yankees won't see the ALCS this year.

1. Lions In September, Mice In October - The Yankees have had some offensive trouble as well lately. Both Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera have hit below the Mendoza line in September. It's hard to predict even how their hottest hitters will do in October however.

Last year, A-Rod's best month of the year was September. He hit .358/.465/.691 for an OPS of 1.157. Come October however, A-Rod hit under .150 for the second postseason in a row. A-Rod has posted his highest strikeout total of any month this September, striking out more than once every four at bats. Could it be a sign of things to come?

The Yankees have lead the major leagues in runs scored, each of the past regular seasons. Come playoff time however, they haven't been able to average more than four runs a game in either one of the last seasons. 2006 was an especially horrendous series for the Yankees offensively, as they compiled a batting average of .246.

2. Bullpen Inferiority - The Yankees bullpen has been an issue for them all year. It's not really fair to compare the two team's bullpens. The Indians have one of the deepest bullpens in the league. Some of the bullpen arms they can trust include Betancourt (1.47 ERA), Perez (1.78 ERA), Lewis (2.13 ERA) and Fultz (3.03 ERA). Fultz is the only one of those pitchers who does not have more strikeouts than innings pitched.

When it comes to the Yankees however, they essentially only have two bullpen arms which they can trust. One of them is Mariano Rivera, but the other one is rookie Joba Chamberlain, who has never pitched in the postseason. Former Yankees set up man Luis Vizcaino, has really struggled lately. Perhaps his 77 appearances have caught up with him as he's had an ERA over 10 in September.

3. Sabathia and Carmona - Sabathia and Carmona are arguably the best 1-2 punch in the league. Both pitchers were in the top 10 in the league in wins, ERA and WHIP. Sabathia could be especially tough for the Yankees. The Yankees have done poorly against lefty starters this season (19-19). They also haven't faced Sabathia in years. The Yankees will have to face those pitchers on the road, where they've gone 42-39 this year.

4. Starting Woes - Outside of Chien-Ming Wang, every member of the Yankees playoff rotation is a question mark. Pettitte, typically one of the best September pitchers in baseball, has really struggled down the stretch. In September, he's had an ERA of 5.86, a WHIP of 1.67 and a BAA of .324. That's good for his worst September in over nine years.

By the time Clemens gets the ball in game three of the ALDS, he will have gone 20 days without pitching. There have been jokes that Clemens will be pitching with his arm on a thread. His real issue however is his hamstring, which is an infamously pesky injury. The last time Clemens pitched in the postseason with a hurt hamstring, the results were disastrous. He blew up in the ALDS and then again in the World Series, lasting only 2 innings. His postseason ERA in that year of 2005, was 5.63.

And finally, we arrive at the Yankees fourth starter, Mike Mussina. Mussina lost his rotation spot after completely falling apart in August. After stringing together two quality starts in a row, Mussina again got lit up, allowing six runs on 11 hits in his last outing. He didn't get out of the fifth inning.

The Story of the Royal Rooters

The 1903 Boston Americans.

The Royal Rooters were the original "fan club" members of the Boston Red Sox. They became legend in 1903, when they inspired the Red Sox to win the first World Series in baseball history. After losing three of the first four games in the series, the Red Sox rallied to win their next four games to win what was then a best-of-nine competition.

While many may compare The Royal Rooters to the modern day Red Sox Nation, such a comparison is superficial. The Royal Rooters were not a national or even Boston-wide phenomena. Rather, they were a small group of die-hard fans who drank together before games and cheered rowdily during them.

The hangout of the club was "Third Base", a drinking establishment so named because it was where fans would stop after games before heading home. Many consider the establishment to be the first sports bar in the Boston area. The bar's owner, Michael T. McGreevy was the leader of The Royal Rooters. He was considered to be the most vocal of the infamously vocal crew, earning him the nickname "Nuf Ced".

The Royal Rooters would sign the show tune "Tessie" in order to rally their team. The original 1902 version of the song included the lines, "Don't blame me if I ever doubt you/You know I wouldn't live without you." The song's lyrics however were often altered in ways that would taunt and upset opposing teams.

The Royal Rooters saw the first baseball dynasty of the 20th century. From 1903 to 1918, the Red Sox won five of the first 15 World Series. After the 1918 season however, the Royal Rooters disbanded. Boston wouldn't see a World Series championship for another 86 years. Ironically, that was the year that The Dropkick Murphys remade "Tessie", the theme song of The Royal Rooters.

Here in the 21st century, modern "Royal Rooters" look to will the Red Sox on to dynasty status once again. But when we can't cheer for our beloved Sox, we settle for discussing them.