New York City
I have been excited over the last 13 Octobers because the Yankees made the playoffs in each of those years. Even with my travel-heavy schedule over the last three years, I made an effort to be in New York City at some point in October so I can watch the Yankees play. They haven't gone deep sine their World Series appearance in 2003 and although the Yankees made the playoffs the last five years anything short of a World Championship was a disappointment.
The Yankees of the 21st Century do not have the same chemistry and make-up of their counterparts in the late-1990s. The additions of Mike Mussina, Jason Giambi, and A-Rod have produced zero championships. Bottom line is this... Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Brosius combined are not a good as a player as A-Rod. However, they have more rings. Maybe this year will be different and the veterans like Moose, Giambi, and A-Rod will finally pick up their first championships.
The Yankees were one of the hottest teams in baseball after Memorial Day. They made up for a poor start of the year when it looked like the dynasty had crumbled. Torre was on Steinbrenner's doorstep, the veterans who weren't banged up looked old and Mo Rivera couldn't get a career .220 hitter out with his best stuff. The Mets were the toast of the town at the start of the season and all the shit talking from their fans and anti-Yankee pundits started to flare up.
I grew up in the Bronx. I've been a Yankees fan ever since I can recall rooting for any sort of team. But I also grew up with a mentality that there were multiple NY teams in different sports... and you could only be a fan in one. No exceptions. You hated the other NY team as much as you despised Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. It was just like that.
I'm a NY Jets, NY Rangers, NY Yankees, and a NY Knicks fan. So is my brother (although he's not that big of a hockey fan and we both admit that we don't hate the NY Giants; we're sick of seeing six games a year against the fuckin' Cowboys, Redskins, and the Eagles).
If you liked the Rangers, you hated the Islanders. There was a huge rivalry in my high school between the three tri-state teams. I went to school in Manhattan and about 40% of the kids commuted from the burbs like New Jersey and Long Island. The Jersey kids were Devils fans (and they sucked in the late 1980s) and the kids from LI were relentless Islander fans and would chant "1940!" endlessly in the cafeteria.
I was a freshman in high school in 1986. Not only did Don Mattingly get robbed of an MVP award, the fuckin' Mets won the world series that year. I was the only kid in my homeroom who didn't root for the Mets. Most of the kids were bandwagon fans and my home room advisor was a die-hard Mets fan. He would watch the playoff games from the platform of the #7 train with his binoculars, a radio, and a thermos of coffee. Since I attended Catholic school, we started every period with a prayer. Even the priests and lay teachers got in on the Mets bandwagon. At the end of prayers, there was a standard, "St. John Francis Regis, pray for us." Except during October of 1986, they all said, "St. John Francis Regis, pray for us. And the Mets."
What bullshit. I caught more bullshit from my classmates because I rooted for the Red Sox in that series. I got taunts like, "You're not a really Yankees fan. A real fan would never root for the Sox."
My reasoning was simple. The Red Sox fans that I knew were not assholes. Every Mets fan I knew in school was an asstard. Enter Bill Buckner. And the rest of the year was ruined.
That was the only time I ever rooted for the Red Sox. Derek and I would joke that nothing is sweeter than a Red Sox loss except perhaps a Mets loss. I finally got some sort of peace of mind when the Yankees finally won a Championship in my adult years. And then they ended up besting the Mets in 2000 an old fashioned (Subway) World Series.
Then something happened to the Mets in the summer of 2007. I wasn't around so I didn't notice it. I knew that when I left for Europe in early August that the Yankees needed to keep up their pace if they wanted to be the wild card and that the Mets had the division locked up. When I got back from London, the Yanks had the wild card locked up (with a longshot at catching the Red Sox for first place) and that the Mets grip had loosened. The back of the local newspapers started to hype up the Mets downward spiral. I was only home for two days before I went to Florida. I was there with AlCantHang and his crew (who were from outside of Philadelphia) and they kept me up to date with the magical run of the Phillies. In the blink of an eye, the Phillies were in and the Mets were out. Not only were they knocked out of first place, they failed to qualify for the wild card.
The Mets took a drubbing in the media over the last week. The word "historical collapse" was thrown around a lot. It was different that the Red Sox's demise in the summer of 1978 when the Yanks caught them after being up by 14 games on July 19th. But the Mets blew it. And now it looks like the Yankees are on the verge of blowing their 2007 season.
Not only did the Yankees lose Game 1 to the Cleveland Indians, they got spanked. They had not been blown out like that in the playoffs since Arizona scored 15 against them in 2001.
Jerry had sent me an email this morning. He wrote:
1. Didn't Wang spit the bit last year as a game 1 starter?He made some great points.
2. Should Andy Pettitte be the #1 for the playoffs based on his experience?
3. After Bobby Abreu's double and they walked A-Rod to load the bases - Posada and Matsui have to tack on there - Matsui looked totally lost against CC.
Wang historically doesn't pitch well on the road despite 38 wins over the last two seasons. He got too much rest due to the extra days off. A sinker baller Like Wang pitches better when he's tired and gets the ball down. All his pitches were up in the zone and it looked like the Indians were taking batting practice. Wang pitched horrible and gave up nine hits and four walks through 4.2 innings. Let's hope that's his only bad outing of the post-season. That's a performance you could have expected from Mike Mussina, not from your 19-game winner.
Pettitte could have been the #1 starter with his experience, but let's face it, it's not Andy Pettite from 1997. Wang won 19 games this year and 19 last year. He's their ace. Torre is loyal like that. Historically over his career, Pettitte pitches best after a Yankee loss and has an insane record in that situation. So if Yanks went 0-1, Torre knew Pettite would step up and tie the series at 1-1 (which he must do tonight). If the Yanks won game 1, then Torre had Pettitte in perfect position to make it 2-0 before they even get back to the Bronx.
Yanks hitters fucked up in the early innings. In the playoffs it is imperative that you drive in runners in scoring position with less than 2 outs especially in the early innings. The Indians did that early and the Yanks couldn't get the job done. CC was all over the place. Like Wang, he didn't have his best stuff. But unlike Wang, CC got himself out of jams when the Yanks could not manufacture runs aside from the two HRs. A-Rod went 0 for 2 but got on base twice with two walks (one intentional). Jeter, Matusi, Posada, and Melky were a combined 0-16 with 6 strikeouts. Add an inept offensive output to a lackluster pitching performance and you have a formula for a loss.
The only positive notes about the Yankees... Phil Hughes looked great in relief and Giambi had a hit in his first pinch-hit AB of the post-season.
I heard rumors that Wang might pitch Game 4 on three-days rest, that is if the Yanks can get that far. They need to take it one game at a time. Tonight is clutch and should be a low scoring game. Bottom line... Yanks need to win three out of the next four games. It can be done and it's all up to Andy Pettitte's left shoulder. I hope that some of the kids from my high school prayed for the Yankees today. They're going to need it.