Yesterday, we remembered the ALDS, in which Raul Ibanez was minted “The King of New York”. Triumphant and on a roll, the Yankees were looking to keep the momentum up going into the ALCS.
The American League Championship Series pitted the fledgling rivals Detroit Tigers (led by ace Justin Verlander, 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and power-hitter Prince Fielder) against the New York Yankees. It’s still hard for me to remember that first game without reliving the roller coaster of emotions from the game.
Going into the bottom of the 9th inning, the Tigers were up 4-0 as Ichiro Suzuki steps up to the plate and slams a 2-run home run into the right field fans. Yankees fans suddenly have hope with 2 outs and Teixeira on 1st with a walk, the “King” steps up and does it again to tie the game and take it into extra innings. Ladies and gentlemen, lightning struck three times in the Bronx this October.
In the 12th, a Tiger double scores a run, putting the Tigers on top 5-4. The next batter steps up to the plate and finds his pitch on the 6th pitch, a 91 mph four-seam fastball, looks to find a gap between Robinson Cano at 2nd base and Derek Jeter at Shortstop. But the ever-agile (though still quite wounded from the September bone bruise incident) Derek Jeter goes diving for it, tumbling to the ground, screaming in pain and tossing it to a waiting Cano, who instead calls over Joe Girardi and head trainer Steve Donahue.
The world fell silent for those minutes, as the unflappable Derek Jeter wasn’t getting up. He fouls a 90+ mph ball off his foot and walks it off like a little fly bit him. This was different, this was threatening, this wasn’t good.
Half carried off by Girardi and Donahue, Jeter was rushed into the training room to be x-rayed by the team doctor. This wasn’t something he could play through. He was done for the season. The good news? It wasn’t over for his career.
Yes, the Yankees lost 6-4 in the opener, but like much of the rest of the world, no one (but the Tigers) seemed to care about finishing the game when the fate of their Captain, their friend was still unknown. That loss is going to be the footnote in most stories from that day and for the rest of this season. This was the first time since October 1995 that the Yankees played the postseason without their Captain.
Some people have said this gives a taste of what the Yankees will be like when he one day retires from the game, but I’d have to disagree. When he retires, the team will have a whole Spring Training and regular season to become accustomed to the plays, daily life, clubhouse dynamics, and personality of the team without him before they reach October.
Knowing the end of the story now and seeing the success of Jeter’s progress during these last few months leading into Spring Training, it almost seems like we can relive those moments of shock with some relief. Our heroes, our Yankees may not be invincible, but they sure do like to overcome all odds with flare and triumph. If this is any indication of how they’re going to perform in 2013, we could see something amazing this year.