How can the Guardians beat the Yankees? 'More SpongeBob moments.'
The American League Division Series between the Cleveland Guardians and the New York Yankees has been characterized as David vs. Goliath. The betting lines give the Guardians very little chance of winning the series.
But sports commentator Terry Pluto said that the young team has defied the odds all season.
“Well, statistics or analytics would have said that you don't take the youngest team in baseball and even have a winning record, much less make the playoffs, and much less win the first round and put yourself in position to play the Yankees. And statistics also would say that when one team has like almost a $270 million payroll and the other team has a $70 million payroll, they would have no chance,” Pluto said.
Pluto said that despite the Yankees’ massive payroll and powerhouse status, the last time the New York team went to the World Series was 2009. The Guardians were last there in 2016, losing in extra innings in the seventh game.
“And people who play in that Eastern Division, New York or Boston, always put down the Central Division. The Royals out of Kansas City went in ‘14 and ‘15 and won it once. The Tigers won in ‘12. And believe me, there is a lot of pressure on them. You know, when you're in New York, sort of like the World Series is the minimum,” Pluto said.
The Guardians surged behind an old-school style of play – smacking extra base hits, running hard to first base and stealing bases. But Pluto believes, ultimately, what they will need to beat the Yankees are more, “SpongeBob moments.”
“SpongeBob is the favorite cartoon character of Oscar Gonzalez, the power hitter who came up at midseason from the minors. So, when everybody was picking their theme songs, he was using the SpongeBob cartoon theme song, which actually caught on very quickly here. Oscar Gonzalez hits the home run in the 15th inning in that second game against Tampa Bay to send them to New York," Pluto said. "And basically, if you look at this, this is SpongeBob against Godzilla. And if you watch the cartoon, SpongeBob is always the underdog, but he is a sponge, it's like he bounces back. And that is kind of how it's been for this team all year.”
The Yankees beat the Guardians five out of the six times they played each other in the regular season this year.
“I have to admit, those matchups look bad, too. There is not a lot of reason to feel confident other than it's a short series. If this was best of seven or best of nine, I don't feel good about it, but they're playing best of five,” Pluto said.
Pluto takes a step back and takes a big-picture view from the beginning of the season:
“I think I picked them 77-85, which is one of the higher predictions you would have seen. Because one of my theories has been since Terry Francona came here ten years ago as a manager and hooked up with Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti in the front office, they've never been bad. And my feeling is as long as that combination stays together, they will never be bad. [But] nobody saw this coming, 92-70,” Pluto said.