THE YANKEES ENDURED a season of almosts.
Jason Giambi was almost sent to Triple-A Columbus., Gary Sheffield was almost traded to the Mets. Joe Torre and Brian Cashman were almost fired. The Yankees almost finished in fourth place.
But Giambi found his swing. Sheffield stayed on the team. So did their manager and GM. And after the Orioles and Blue Jays flew south, they caught the Red Sox.
And the Yankees finished up a season of almosts with an 8-4 victory. That's their eighth straight division title.
While the $205 million payroll was widely scrutinized, it was the arm of their $350,000 diamond in the rough, Aaron Small. The 33-year old Small had been pinballed between 11 franchises' minor league teams and had 3 career major-league starts prior to this year, with the last coming in 1996. Small's 10-0 record is arguably the X-factor that pushed the Yankees from an underachieving juggernaut to a hard-fought division victor.
ONE RUN LOSSES plagued the Indians all year, especially at the beginning of the year. This weekend it seems the Indians suffered an episode of deja vu after dropping Friday's game 3-2 and Saturday's game 5-4, both to the White Sox.
The most embarrassing facet of Friday's game is that they lost to a White Sox team that began only two everyday starters. Two. Scott Podsednik and Joe Crede. Everyone else was a backup or September callup. Granted, Mark Buehrle started but the Indians have to beat a team that starts two regulars.
The Indians had several chances to blow the game open. They did tie the game in the bottom of the 9th with an RBI groundout by Ron Belliard, but The Sox's Ross Gload's smashed 2-run double over the head of center fielder Grady Sizemore to put the game away 3-2 after Belliard's solo HR in the bottom of the 13th.