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Yankees fans know the drill. The Yanks are getting ready to play some team in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and someone, whether it be an opposing team’s talking head, manager or player, proclaims: It’s not so easy to hit home runs here.
For example, before the Yankees played at Citi Field this past weekend, Mets’ manager Terry Collins said, “Our ballpark plays a little bit differently than theirs. Yankee Stadium is a great place for their team and their fans; there’s a lot of home runs hit. They can hit them out of here, too; it’s just not quite as easy as it is over there.” Well, the Yankees made it looked easy at Citi Field, too. They hit seven home runs during the three games in Flushing. Both line drives and monster shots, including one by Alex Rodriguez that hit the Mets’ home run apple and one by Robinson Cano that cleared the darn thing.
Last year, before a May series against Seattle, that little pre-game host who looks like Marty McFly, remarked about there being no “jet stream” to help carry the ball out of Safeco. First inning, Mark Teixeira crushes one. Bye, bye baseball. In fact, New York hit at least one home run in every game of that particular three-game series.
The Yankees hit home runs, folks. That’s what they do. They hit them in bandboxes like Camden Yards, and they hit them in cavernous stadiums like Oakland Coliseum. They’re not nicknamed the Bronx Bombers for nothing. They are a franchise that has traditionally been built on power. But the obsession the media has with the Yankees and the long ball, especially this year, is growing tiresome.
We hear it every time they play and even more so if it’s a national broadcast on ESPN or FOX. “You know, they can’t win in the postseason relying on the home run. The pitching in the postseason is just too good.” That is indeed true. Teams usually face the best pitching during the postseason when scratching out runs any way possible is important. But it’s not as if teams don’t hit home runs during the postseason. Some of the most memorable postseason moments are home runs: Aaron Boone crushing the hopes and dreams of Red Sox fans in the 2003 ALCS. Jim Leyritz going deep against Atlanta in the 1996 World Series. Derek Jeter becoming Mr. November in the 2001 World series.
The last time the Yankees won the World Series — all the way back in 2009 — there was a home run hit in every single game either by the Yankees or the Phillies. Now the Phillies, who lost the series, did hit more: 11 dingers to the Yankees six. So, while not necessarily a factor to success, the home run is certainly not a hindrance.
The problem has been the Yankees getting the big hits with runners in scoring position. However, they’ve been showing signs of life in that department of late. Plus, you have to think, with the likes of Robinson Cano and Teixeira heating up, that paltry .225 RISP average will soon creep up to where it should be. (It’s already inched up from .217 over the past few days.)
In the mean time, sit back, relax and enjoy the home run derby.