Friday, October 22, 2004
OK, unreasoning glee over. I am still, of course, obscenely happy about this ALCS win. I did not see one single Yankees hat around campus today, and usually I see at least 25 by mid-afternoon. I had 'Go Sox!' yelled at me by perfect strangers. In an utterly bizarre move, as we sat in art lecture tonight waiting for the midterm tests to be passed out, the professor announced, "I see we have a Red Sox fan in the room. If Boston wins it all, maybe it's a sign for other Massachusetts things." Um. What? My entire row leaned forward in a comical fashion and hissed, "What's he talking about?" It took me a minute, but then I realized that he meant that if the Sox win the Series, it might be a sign that Kerry will win the presidency. Weird. I realize that I was sitting in the middle of the room, and I realize that I had a bright red Red Sox jersey on, but I still fail to see why the professor (to whom I have never personally spoken) brought it up in such a fashion.
I read the New York papers online, and they were like tiny little kittens put in front of a mirror for the first time. They had no idea what they were seeing, and it scared them, so they reacted by hissing and spitting and trying to puff up to make themselves look bigger, but in the end it did no good, because what scared them so much was nothing more than the reflection of their very own ugly mugs. I hope you enjoy this, New York. I hope you like seeing how it feels when you think you have the best team in the world, with the best players in the world, and they absolutely collapse on you.
So far as I can tell, from my limited readings on the subject, every Yankee player and every Yankee administrative member is up for evisceration by New York, with the exception of Derek Jeter. I suppose this makes sense in a way. The Yankees have a lot of marquis players, what with Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield, Lofton, and Matsui-- but of those, only Jeter has been around for the long haul.
One of the big problems, inasmuch as the Yankee writers have acknowledged it, seems to be that this is not a team. It's just a bunch of overpaid guys being forced to play ball together. Now, if there's one thing that Boston most emphatically is, it's a cohesive team. But here's the thing: the Yankees are complaining that they're not a team because they have all these out-of-towners, all these new guys coming in this year.
Take a moment to think about that.
Then take a moment to consider David Ortiz, a pretty new addition to our team, roped in by Theo right along with a little closer called Keith Foulke. I dunno, I tend to think that even if you hadn't been following baseball all that closely you just might have heard of these guys. Just a smidgen? It might just be my imagination, but I think the clubhouse likes them just fine.
Or maybe you've heard of a couple of ballplayers by the names of Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera? These are the guys we got this summer as our end of the infamously brave deal that rode Nomar out of town, just in case you've forgotten. Maybe you've noticed little Cabby hitting, oh, a ball or two this season. Maybe making the occasional play for us. Maybe you've seen him partying with Pokey, or leaping up to hug pretty much any Sox player. Mientkie? Oh, you know, I'm pretty sure he's been doing a thing or two over there at first. Maybe you've noticed (as I have) that he always seems to be first in the celebratory pile when we win. Oh, and lest you forget how very new he is on this team, he was traded during a series against his Minnesota Twins this summer. One day he was playing against us. The next day he showed up at the same park and was playing for us.
Oh, and there's that other guy. A gentleman by the name of Curt Schilling. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm relatively certain that he wasn't on this team last year. Gosh, another newcomer? And has he been jelling with this team? Wow, I dunno, this is a tough one. I'm just not sure the rest of the team likes having Schilling there. I'm not sure if Boston likes having him around, what with all the interacting he does with the fans and suchlike.
The point, of course, after I get that particular brand of sarcasm out of my system, is that I'm failing to see why trucking in a load of new blood should automatically make a dissonant team. We did it, and we're the most consonant (is that the antonym of dissonant? I'd look it up, but I'm too lazy) team in baseball right now. The Yankees did it, and it seems to have turned them into a mess of oil-and-water proportions. Why should this be? Is it some function of management? Do the Red Sox pick people they think will play well and will play well with others, while the Yankees only care about playing well alone? Is it a function of the team attitudes? Does Boston's free-and-easy style create a natural environment for bonding, while the Yankees' mantra of 'We are Professional, You Will Get a Crew Cut' stifles that sort of thing?
Is it just a matter of good luck versus bad luck?
I don't want to think that it comes down to luck. There are too many signs that say otherwise. The Sox pick up players who are good, but they tend to avoid the high-strung high rollers. OK, maybe Pedro's a bit... dramatic. But he's been around for a while, he's grandfathered in. Sure, we picked up a big gun this year in Schilling. But we knew from the beginning that Schilling wasn't pissy or stuck up. I guess there was no way to truly predict how he'd react to the players and how they'd react to him, but I think even someone as thick-skulled as a Michigan State fan could have told you that getting a star like Schilling is completely different from getting a 'star' like A-Rod. They were both big-name, big-money, high-profile pick ups, and there the similarity ends.
I mean, really, can you imagine A-Rod playing with a tendon flobbering around in his ankle? Because I can't. I can easily imagine him pulling a Nomar and whining endlessly about it, playing sub-par ball until he essentially forced himself to be traded, at which time his injury would suddenly not be as bad as he had been making it out to be. Then the team he had left would suddenly get better. Schilling stitched up his ankle, reached into a resevoir of heart and courage that the rest of us simply don't have, and pitched. Who would you rather have on your team? That's not luck, except in the sense that it's a damn good bit of luck that A-Rod ended up passing us by.
I'd like to think that the Red Sox management cares about different things than the Yankees management does. I like to think that we care about the team and the Yankees care about... cripes, I don't know. Stats? Themselves? I'm sorry, it's hard for me to think of terms like 'Yankees management' and 'emotions generally perceived as being associated with the heart, such as caring' in close company.
Enough of that, I'm just going to start running in speculative circles with this thing. It all comes down to the fact that we won, and they lost, and that's enough to make my week. Or at least until Saturday, when Game 1 of the World Series happens.
Speaking of which, I watched Game 7 of the NLCS tonight. You just know that if the Astros had won it, everyone would be talking Clemens and C*rse, so in that sense it's a bit of a relief. However. The Cards looked good tonight. Very good. Edmonds scares me. Rolen scares me. Pujols scares me. They can play small-ball. We haven't been to the World Series since 1986. They haven't been since 1987. I'm going to try to stave all this nervous energy off for at least a couple of days, until the game Saturday night. I want to ride this ALCS high for as long as I possibly can.
So, what did we learn in this startlingly and delightfully victorious series?
We learned that you can buy a player, but you can't buy a player with heart.
We learned that there truly are few things more beautiful than making 55,000 people from New York shut up.
We learned that you really are only as good as the sum of your parts.
We learned that A-Rod is a whiny little cheater, that Gary Sheffield is a trash-talking steroid abuser who can't even back up his own classlessly voiced claims, that Mariano Rivera is not untouchable, that if Kevin Brown melts down once he's probably going to melt down again.
We learned that you can never count Derek Lowe out of the season, that you can never count Johnny Damon out of the season, that you can never count Mark Bellhorn out of the season, that you can never count the Red Sox out of a game, and that you can never count the Red Sox out of a series, even if they have all the weight of history saying that they can't come back.
We learned that David Ortiz is a hero with a bat as big as his smile.
We learned the Curt Schilling is a hero with the power to make grown men cry and the power to strike a Nation silent if they weren't so busy singing his praises to anyone who will listen and many who would really rather not (as the now-earsore Michigan art school can attest to).
We learned what it's like to have that tantalizing taste of utter victory. We learned what it's like to beat the Yankees. We learned what it's like to win the ALCS against our hated rivals.
And it's a good feeling. I'd like to learn what it is to win the World Series, to erase the '1918' chant from the baseball lexicon, to truly put an end to this monstrous thing called the C*rse.
I hope all you Yankee fans are learning from your loss. Take a moment to reflect upon your situation. Wallow in the feeling. Now you know what it's like to be 1/200th of a Red Sox fan. Don't give us 'woe', don't give us 'we never should have lost'. You are not guaranteed a spot in the World Series just because you are the Yankees. Winning is not your god-given birthright. Welcome to the real baseball world, Yankees fans. I'd tell you to choke on it, but it seems as though you already did.