Sunday, October 08, 2006

Quest for 27: FAILED

The flight from Detroit was a quiet and subdued one for the Yankees as they took their last trip as a team this season. All most could do in the short time was wonder how -- despite the best record in the American League -- the Bronx Bombers could find themselves on the short end of a short Divisional Series with the Wild Card Detroit Tigers.

"I think we got taken by surprise, got matched up with a team that was a little more ready to play than we were," said right-hander Corey Lidle, who struggled in his effort to relieve Jaret Wright in Saturday's Game 4, allowing three runs and four hits in just 1 1/3 innings of work.

"We were all pretty surprised how not ready we were for that series. I don't think we took the Tigers for granted. I just think they were up for it more than we were."

Most predicted the Yankees would be the better team, considering New York clinched the division with 10 days to go while the Tigers closed out their regular season losing three straight at home to Kansas City and fell into the Wild Card spot.

Yet it was that scenario, Lidle believes, that had Detroit playing with more attention and energy.

"They were fighting tooth and nail to the last game of the season, and we clinched pretty early," said Lidle, acquired from Philadelphia on July 30 along with outfielder Bobby Abreu. "Maybe we were just in cruise control a little too much."

Lidle was one of several players and coaches returning to Yankee Stadium on Sunday for the final time in 2006 to clear out their belongings as they prepare for another offseason -- a winter loaded with questions and changes.

"It's not so much as you're sad, it's that you're disappointed," pitching coach Ron Guidry said. "We really had a better team than what we showed. It didn't work. What I'm thinking about as I watch the whole thing unfold is good pitching usually offsets good hitting. The guys from Detroit just shut our guys down. That's what the game's all about."

After scoring a Major League-best 930 runs in the regular season and hitting 210 home runs (second in the American League), the Yankees lineup batted just .246 against the Tigers and managed just 14 runs in the four-game series -- eight of those coming in the first game.

The Tigers, meanwhile, batted .309 against Yankees pitching, which posted a 5.56 ERA in the playoffs and lost three straight games to close out the series.

"Guys were certainly frustrated and disappointed at the outcome of the last three games," Andy Phillips said.

"Guys are certainly disappointed they didn't give a better showing and we didn't accomplish what we set out to accomplish." Said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in a statement: "I am deeply disappointed at our being eliminated so early in the playoffs. This result is absolutely not acceptable to me nor to our great and loyal Yankee fans. I want to congratulate the Detroit Tigers organization and wish them well. Rest assured, we will go back to work immediately and try to right this sad failure and provide a championship for the Yankees, as is our goal every year."

While the Yankees' goal is to win the World Series, it's an event the Yankees haven't been to since 2003 and haven't won since the Subway Series against the Mets in 2000.

"You definitely feel like the team could have done a lot better. We'll just get ready for next year and hopefully go all the way," reliever Scott Proctor said. "I think we had a great team this year, it's just the Tigers got hot at the right time and we were kind of struggling."

Other Yankees who came in Sunday to clean out their lockers were Kyle Farnsworth, Sal Fasano, Craig Wilson and Chien-Ming Wang, who will spend the next few weeks in New York before returning to his native Taiwan.

Bench coach Tony Pena and bullpen coach Joe Kerrigan also gathered their belongings, along with Guidry.

The Yankees, to a man, were certainly upset at the way the season ended.

Many, however, took solace in the silver lining of winning their ninth straight division title despite a slew of injuries. The Yankees lost left fielder Hideki Matsui and right fielder Gary Sheffield to wrist surgery for four months each. They were without the services of starter Carl Pavano due to a variety of strange injuries. The Yankees also had to deal with injuries to first baseman Jason Giambi (wrist) and closer Mariano Rivera (forearm).

Still, the Yankees managed to go to Boston in mid-August and sweep a five-game series from the Red Sox to all but clinch the division.

The season reminded Guidry of what he and his teammates went through in 1978, when the Yankees trailed the Red Sox but caught up in the second half only when they overcame several injuries and finally got their full lineup together midway through the season.

"We just didn't show the team that we really had," the first-year coach said of the 2006 Yankees in the postseason. "And from what we went through all year -- really battling throughout the year with young kids, patching up the pitching staff -- to win whatever we won, it was a great job on what the team did. It's just unfortunate we didn't get to proceed and meet our goals. "I'd like another chance to [coach]. There are some things we need to concentrate on to make it a better club. I hope I'm given a chance to say a few things about [that]."

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BallHype: hype it up! Posted by Steve Kenul at 8:36 PM


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