2001 MLB Postseason - American League Championship Series

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Jeff Pearlman's Breakdown
Yankees   Mariners
New York hit a so-so .267 during the regular season -- and that means squat. This is a made-for-postseason operation. Derek Jeter and Chuck Knoblauch have proven themselves as playoff run-scorers, and who can argue with David Justice, baseball's all-time playoff leader in numerous offensive categories? A big question: Will third baseman Scott Brosius, he of the .261 average vs. Seattle, wake up?   OFFENSE

The Edge:


On paper, it makes no sense. The Mariners -- whose everyday lineup features David Bell and Stan Javier, Mark McLemore and Dan Wilson -- led the AL with a .288 average and 927 runs? How? Answer: An aggressive, hard-nosed approach that begins with Ichiro Suzuki, the AL's should-be MVP, and explodes with Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, Mike Cameron and John Olerud in the middle. Hit-and-run, stolen bases, sacrifices -- the Ms do it all.  

Although Alfonso Soriano has made great strides in his first season as a full-time second baseman, he's still jumpy and erratic. And while Knoblauch is no Todd Hundley in left, he's also no Kevin McReynolds (once one of the best). When Shane Spencer is in the outfield, good things tend to happen. Jeter remains one of the best at short.   DEFENSE

The Edge:

There's a dent in the armor. McLemore is the league's most important utility player, but he's no Ozzie Smith. Filling in for shortstop Carlos Guillen, who is out indefinitely with tuberculosis, McLemore makes all the standard plays, but his mitt-to-hand-to-throw time is terrible, and his range is below average. Otherwise, Seattle (whose 83 errors were a major league low) is very sound.  

Lefty Andy Pettitte and righty Orlando Hernandez are two of the best postseason pitchers of our generation -- and they're not even New York's best starters. Those honors belong to Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina, who combined for a 37-14 record and 427 strikeouts in the regular season. Through the seasons of Jimmy Key and Jack McDowell and Dwight Gooden, it's oft argued which staff is the Yanks' best. Good news -- you're looking at it.   STARTING PITCHING

The Edge:

In Games 2 and 5 of the AL Division Series, Jamie Moyer drove the Indians coo-coo. Although his gas tops out at 85, the 16-year, six-team journeyman works his changeup as well as anyone this side of Greg Maddux. One problem: The free-swinging, machismo-stuffed Indians were made for Moyer. The patient, selective Yanks are not. Righty Freddy Garcia throws in the mid-90s and pitched wonderfully in Game 4. Aaron Sele (9.00 ERA) and Paul Abbott (24.00 ERA), however, got rocked. 

This is one area where, outside of Mike Stanton, Ramiro Mendoza and Mariano Rivera, the Bombers are weak. Wasn't Jay Witasick dumped by the Royals? Wasn't Mark Wohlers in Class D? Yuck.   BULLPEN

The Edge:

It will probably drive Joe Torre crazy to look across the field and see Jeff Nelson in Seattle colors. A Yankee for five seasons, Nellie has been the AL's best right-handed setup man this season (4-3, 2.76 ERA). Throw in a revitalized Norm Charlton, the intense Arthur Rhodes and the Rivera-like Kazuhiro Sasaki (45 saves), and you have not just the most complete bullpen of the season, but perhaps the last couple of decades.  

New York is not so hot here, either. Clay Bellinger can play multiple positions, but so could Benji in Benji's Baseball Adventure. Among Spencer, Justice and Paul O'Neill, one of these guys is Torre's No. 1 power option. Didn't the Pirates once trade Enrique Wilson for Johnnie LeMaster and three Dr. Peppers?   BENCH

The Edge:

With McLemore a full-time starter, the bench ain't what it used to be. Jay Buhner has looked sluggish in limited time (0-for-3 in the ALDS), Al Martin plays like Al B. Unsure, and Ed Sprague is rumored to be on the roster, too.  

What's not to like? Torre was nearly a Hall of Fame-caliber player and he's 1,000 times more successful as the Yankees' skipper. Four World Series rings? What's there to doubt? MANAGER

The Edge:


Early in his managerial career, Lou Piniella was a starting pitcher's worst nightmare. He was one of those ex-position players with the "hates pitchers" rep. He had a quick hook, and it hurt his teams. Nowadays, the kinder, gentler, more patient Piniella is one of baseball's four or five best. He managed the Reds to a World Series title in 1990, so this won't be an overwhelming experience.  

The Yanks have a tradition of eating powder puff pitchers for lunch (See: Maddux, Hitchcock, Reed, etc.). If they rough up Moyer, the M's are toast.   'X' FACTOR

The Edge:

Moyer: Can downright devastate teams with his confusing, baffling, befuddling buffet of pitches. Single-handedly responsible for the Indians' demise.  
Pearlman's Prediction: Yankees in 6
Sports Illustrated baseball writer Jeff Pearlman will contribute regularly to CNNSI.com throughout the playoffs.

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