An out-of-town take on the four teams bounced from the playoffs.
Yankees (Alex Belth, Bronx Banter): The offense was completely flat. Jeter had a hit and Posada hit a late home run, but Alex Rodriguez, dropped to eighth in the order today, was horrid, and Gary Sheffield and Robinson Cano were not far behind. The end came swiftly and without mercy for the $200 million Yankees. They are sure to get decimated by the press in the coming days and weeks. Rodriguez may get so much abuse that the Yankees may consider trading him. This was nothing short of a stunning way for an entertaining season to end. The Tigers deserve a good measure of credit -- their pitching was especially strong. But after Game One, the Yankees played tighter than a tick's ass and they are left with the bitter taste of defeat to ponder for the next four plus months. Or as everyone's favorite whipping boy put it: "You kind of get tired of giving the other team credit," third baseman Alex Rodriguez said after another terrible October. "At some point you've got to look in the mirror and say, 'I sucked."'
Beerleaguer: Besides T.O., the Yanks were the talk of the sports world after their first-round fall. However, this was no upset. Detroit is an excellent team and hold all the right cards to win a World Series, including a stable of young power pitchers, balanced offense and superb manager. Should they reach the WS, Kenny Rogers would be a nightmare for the NL representative, namely the Mets, who have struggled against lefties. Meanwhile, the Yankees need to reinvent themselves a little, particularly the way they assemble a pitching staff. This group needs some fresh direction and motivation.
Twins (Aaron Gleeman, aarongleeman.com): It doesn't seem right that 96 wins and one of the most improbable turnarounds in baseball history can be wiped away with three losses, but such is life in the postseason. The Twins made too many mistakes -- big and small, mentally and physically, tactically and athletically, offensively and defensively -- and didn't come up with nearly enough clutch hits with men on base. It's a shame that an otherwise amazing season had to come to such a pathetic, disappointing end, but the truth is that the Twins deserved to lose given the way they played. It's unfortunate that Brad Radke's career had to end on such a down note, away from the Metrodome and in a season-ending losing effort, but his place in team history was secure well before he took the mound in Oakland.
Beerleaguer: I like Aaron’s practical take here. In a five-game set, the outcome of this series was going to swing either way with neither team having a distinct edge. The Twins, a team that does everything right from the front office down, deserve a better fate after playing inspired ball down the stretch. Here’s another team that couldn’t generate timely hits, a running theme for all the first-round losers.
Padres (Tim Sullivan, San Diego Union-Tribune): (The Padres) hit .063 with runners in scoring position (2-for-32), and just .225 overall, with no home runs and only one indisputably clutch hit – Saturday's two-run triple by Russell Branyan. For the second straight year, the Padres' postseason performance made an eloquent argument for a major overhaul. This was a transition year for the Home Team, a season in which stodgy station-to-station baseball was replaced by a younger, more dynamic style of play more suitable to spacious Petco Park. Yet the Padres' brief postseason experience reaffirmed that the renovation project is incomplete; that more walls need to be knocked down – outfield walls, to be specific. Stockpiling pitching is always sound strategy, but it's time for Towers to find some hitters who can supply some margin for error for all those overtaxed arms. It's time to retool with an elite run-producer or to stick Mike Piazza in a time machine. Even if it means parting with some front-line pitching, it's time for the Padres to acquire some punch.
Beerleaguer: The Padres leaned on pitching and defense, but here again, that third element – timely hitting – cost them when they needed it. All along, you’d look at the Padres box score and wonder how they were collecting wins. Still, had this been a seven-game series, I believe the Padres would have bested St. Louis. The Cards would have sent Jeff Weaver to the mound in Game 5, and the Pads would have countered with Jake Peavy.
Dodgers (Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky, Blue Notes): Three up, three down. Would have been a hot phrase for Dodgers fans, were they on the sweeping end of this best of 5 series. But instead, last night's 9-5 victory by the Mets marked the brooming of the Dodgers postseason hopes. Not that they ever got started, really. Sure, the Dodgers felt pretty good heading into their backyard to keep hope alive, especially with future Cooperstown citizen Greg Maddux taking the mound. It only took Maddux's first inning to begin eating away that optimism. Or the Dodgers simply unraveled, often the case with patchwork products. But in any description, a starting rotation that never got into gear was matched by an offense even less dialed in. When that's the case, bad breaks grow even more deadly and harder to overcome and there's only so much luck you can count on. Mistakes of all kinds become magnified (and speaking of which, Joe Beimel better have really enjoyed his time out carousing). And it starts feeling eerie how "old friends" come back to haunt. Safe to say they're not unhappy about being spoilers, either. Throw all that together and what do you get? A short trip to the playoffs and a box score like such.
Beerleaguer: Even with their tattered rotation, the Mets are a far better team. Don't let their strong finish fool you; the Dodgers were the weakest of the bunch, the benefactors of the worst National League in memory. Already, General Manager Ned Colletti is eyeing next season, including acquiring a big bat. A-Rod anyone?