STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And commentator Frank Deford has his own take on the New York Yankees.
FRANK DEFORD: I dont believe in voodoo or evil eyes or curses - especially in sports. I never believed in the Curse of the Bambino upon the Red Sox or that a goat has cursed the Cubs.
However, I do firmly believe that if there are curses, or that there should be curses, then the New York Yankees will be cursed forever, starting right now. This is what the team gets for erecting a 35 square foot graven image to immortalize their late owner, George Steinbrenner; a glitzy monument to his pomposity and excess that positively dwarfs the monuments of the other Yankees who actually played baseball, thus rendering the glorious likenesses of Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle as just so many little Facebooks in the crowd.
Theres already a joke going around that the only three things made by man that you can see from a satellite in outer space are the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, and the plaque of George Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium.
But the curse aside, as the playoffs begin today, it would appear that the Yankees are most unlikely to be able to repeat as champions. It is especially instructive that the quartet of stalwarts who have been the core of the club for so long - Derek Jeter, the noble captain; Jorge Posada, the yeoman catcher; Andy Petitte, the reliable southpaw; and Mariano Rivera, the inscrutable closer - all have begun, almost together, to start to crumble.
Both Petitte and Posada were shelved with injuries this year. And Rivera, surely the best reliever ever, three times blew saves in September. We are advised now that he is working on his motion. Mariano Rivera working on his motion? It sounds as odd as Vincent van Gogh working on his brush strokes. As for Jeter, since June he has played his age, which is 36, and which is particularly historically long in the tooth for shortstops.
Jeters 10-year contract concludes this year. Obviously he and the Yankees will stay the course together. Among other realities, Jeter is simply worth more to the Yankees as their icon than he is to any other team as an ordinary player. The Yankees will pay him the baseball version of a golden parachute to stick around and lend his class to the crass a little while longer.
Derek Jeter, shortstop emeritus.
But for now, notwithstanding the talents of C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and of course A-Rod, and the multitude of other stars that the Yankees have bought and paid top dollar for, the simultaneous erosion of the teams four horsemen seems to symbolically portend the end for the defending champions. You get the feeling that the last hurrah was last year. And then theres that new curse to contend with too.
INSKEEP: Frank Deford, who's long and storied history of commentary makes him the New York Yankees of commentators. He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.