There's no way to foretell the results of this weekend's showdown series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles, but logic dictates the Bronx Bombers will be ready to demonstrate their resiliency.
Really, that's what collapses and fending off collapses is about - resiliency. And if anyone knows about collapses in depth, it's Mets fans, who've been treated to two in recent years. The best mounted comebacks from the lower reaches of the standings to prominence atop divisions occur late, eliminating the ability of the toppled to recover. In short, the Baltimore Orioles, and to a slightly lesser extent, the Tampa Rays, may have caught the Yankees too soon. You need not peak too far into the past for a manifestation of this point. Last year, both the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves were caught from behind as late as possible by the Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals respectively. The Cardinals, as we know, parlayed that late rush and momentum into another championship. Timing is everything.
Clearly, the Orioles and Rays are not as talented as the Yankees, and neither has the will developed from years of history and accomplishment under every conceivable condition, including furious challenges from teams behind them. The only time the legacy-rich Yankees combusted in recent memory was in the 2004 American League Championship Series when they shockingly blew a 3-0 game lead to the destiny-laced Boston Red Sox. But even that occurred in a compact time frame, clearly dissimilar to the characteristics of a pennant race.
In 1978, the Red Sox conducted perhaps the most panicked collapse in history, measured similarly to only two others - the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies and the 2007 New York Mets. They were utterly clueless for weeks and lost a four-game series to the Yankees in Fenway Park that was stunning in its annihilation. But even that team re-grouped heroically to erase a 3 and a 1/2 game Yankee lead in the final week to force the historic Bucky Dent game.
Don't give the panicked a chance to recover, and opportunity to gather themselves. Of course, there's no way to time a streak like the one fashioned by the Orioles and Rays. But each may peer back later and wish they'd have had the good fortune to catch the Yankees on the last day of the season rather than four weeks before it.
Glenn Vallach has been a New York Mets fan since foolishly abandoning the mighty Yankees in his youth after Mickey Mantle retired. Since the fond, fleeting memories of the Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee years, he sits quietly yearning for a fraction of the success enjoyed annually by the team that inhabits the borough in which I was born...waiting and hoping...waiting and hoping.
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