Well, the Yankees finally did it. The Bombers bought the pennant. And now we are going to be subjected to the biggest verbal onslaught about the New York Yankees dynasty since the one-year Knicks dynasty of 1969.
True, the Yankees did win the pennant by beating the Kansas City Royals. But they did it with a patchwork of many of the best players in the American League, only four of whom came up through their farm system. Thurman Munson and Roy White, two of the Yankees who made it up from the Syracuse farm club, will be no match for their Cincinnati counterparts, Johnny Bench and George Foster.
Probably the biggest travesty is the Yankees' pitching staff. George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, isn't stupid. He went out and tried to reunite the championship pitching staff of the Oakland A's, and he's half done. Steinbrenner bought Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman by paying them exorbitant salaries. Next year he'll probably lure Vida Blue to New York (he already tried it this year) and then will have three of the four A's starters. Unfortunately for Steinbrenner, the fourth starter, Blue Moon Odom, hasn't been doing so well in the majors lately.
The other two Yankee starters did come up through the minors, if you consider the California Angels and the Pittsburgh Pirates the minor leagues. But while they were still with their former teams, Ed Gigueroa and Doc Ellis did well enough to get the call from the major leagues, the Big Apple, and they came like bargain-seekers to Filene's basement.
At catcher, the Yanks do have a slight advantage offensively, because Munson had a great year and Bench didn't. But Bench did come out of the playoffs with a bang, hammering the ball out of Riverfront Stadium in the last of the ninth in the final game. Defensively, Bench has it all over Munson. Long ago, Bench learned that to throw someone out at second, you should throw overhand.
Munson learned that lesson late in his catching career--last week, to be precise. Thurman will need a lot of practice before this afternoon's contest if he wants to contain some of the Red's runners. As of September 21, Joe Morgan had 58 stolen bases, Griffey had 33 and Concepcion had 20. Dan Driessen, a substitute infielder, has swiped 14 bases in 15 attempts.
The Yankees acquired some good runners from the minors, too. Mickey Rivers, from the farm club called the California Angels, stole more than 43 bases and Willie Randolph from the farm club in Pittsburgh, stole 35 bases. One pure-bred Yankee, Roy White, snagged about 29 bases.
In the infield, the Reds have a slight edge. Chris Chambliss, who missed his calling in pro football, batted about .290 this year and had nearly 20 homers. Tony Perez, for the Reds, batted in the .260 range but with about five more round trippers than Chambliss.
At second base, the advantage has to go to the Yanks. Willie Randolph displayed his great all-around skills, out-classing Joe Morgan with a hefty .270 average (compared to a piddling .320 for Morgan).
And at shortstop, the Yanks' Fred Stanley has practically become a household word. Dave Concepcion is no match for this .240 hitter. The same is true at third base. How can Pete Rose, with a .323 average, compare to Graig Nettles, whose average hovered around .245 this year.
In the outfield, the Reds have some young players, like George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey, who, despite their great hit-and run-producing abilities, also play spectacular defense. The Yankees' troika of White, Rivers and Elliot Maddox aren't the greatest hitters and their defense leaves a lot to be desired as well.
Essentially, the Yankees won by default this year. The Red Sox and the Orioles were plagued with contract problems and never really got started. And the Royals might have won except for a bad call in the ninth inning of the last game. But for the sake of purity, the Reds must stem the unpure tide from the Bronx. I predict that the series will go no less than four game, nor more than seven. And the Reds are going to win most of the games.