It’s only natural to compare this year’s Yankees team to last year’s — to weigh the additions and the subtractions, to observe what broke their way one year and didn’t the other, and so on. So consider this a reminder that the Yankees won the World Series last year even though their number three hitter — arguably their best hitter during the regular season — had a pretty dreadful postseason.
Last year, Mark Teixeira batted just .180 in the playoffs, despite batting in front of Alex Rodriguez. You can bet that if the Yankees had not won the World Series, Texieira would have been one of the first ones blamed, the can’t-hit-in-the-clutch stigma passed up the order from Rodriguez. When you don’t hit in April, it’s because you’re “a slow starter,” or maybe because you’re “streaky.” Not hitting in October, though, is a bit more serious.
And so what if the Mark Teixeira who homered in the seventh inning last night — right after CC Sabathia walked in the tying run but at least escaped further trouble — sticks around for the rest of the playoffs? Comparing the merits of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner to those of Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera seems less significant if your No. 3 goes from batting .180 to being the guy so feared that he sometimes forces managers to consider walking him to get to Alex Freaking Rodriguez. (And don’t forget: Ron Gardenhire did this just this past May. Rodriguez hit a grand slam.)
Of course, Mark Teixeira teased us last year, too: He hit the walk-off in Game 2 of the ALDS to give the Yankees a commanding 2-0 series lead. After that, last year, the Yankees were good enough to win without an especially productive Teixeira in October. This year, they’re probably not. But perhaps he won’t give us the chance to find out.