Crazy Yankee Chick: And the World Series heads back to the Bronx...
"When the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will...then it's time to break our necks for home."--Annie Dillard
After last night's loss in Citizen's Bank Park that staved off elimination for the Phillies, I realized that the game was really a fascinating indicator of fandom more than anything else.
The Yankees took 2 out of 3 in Philly and now head back to the Bronx with a 3-2 series lead, so in essence, they were playing with house money last night. But for some reason, it engendered such a colorful palette of reactions from baseball fans that I couldn't help but start categorizing them.
When I returned home after the final out was recorded, my sister sat at my desk and started surveying the myriad of responses that only a Facebook News Feed can capture.
"Ugh. I knew it. This douchebag Sux fan who has been quiet for the last 5 days, has decided to re-emerge from the woodwork now: 'Adam is here's to the Phillies making the second greatest comeback in playoff history. Go Phils!'"
Bad move, Boston fan. Bad move.
See, in any sport, when your team wins the title, 99.9% of the time, you're just so happy to have won, that any inclination to talk shit to other fans, falls by the wayside and is very much secondary to the overwhelming exuberance of victory.
When the Giants beat the evil Pats in 2008, it didn't occur to me to start rubbing it in New England's face. Me and the rest of the Giants-rooting world were too excited and just wanted to watch the 4th quarter drive on a loop. (Granted, I eventually did start up with the "18-1" mockery, but that was only much after the fact.)
HOWEVER, if someone makes a point to go out of his or her way to poke the bear, unprovoked, then there's the exception to the rule. Because if the Yankees should end up winning the World Series this year, I will make a pit stop before riding off into the sunset, to dole out heaps of karma three-fold.
Keep it up, "Adams" of the world. You're only making it worse for yourself.
Then there were the Philly fans at the bar. Who were notably muted until the homerun parade off the bats of the Phils effectively broke the game wide open. Then there were the shrieks and whoops from the visiting team's special table at the bar.
My sister rightly pointed out, "Ya know, when we go to Fenway, we never do shit like that. Because we're in someone else's house. I have no respect for Boston, but I still respect common decency."
While I 100% agree with her, there's a gaping hole in her argument, since it presupposes that Philly subscribes to even the slightest modicum of fundamental decorum.
But both of these fan sects--both the generalized/pathetic hater and the declasse cesspool of Phils fans--were no worse than the giving-up-too-early Yankee fan.
The Yanks took an early 1-0 lead, and spirits were high in NY. Look at that! We scored early! And off Cliff Lee no less! NOTHING'S GONNA STOP US NOW!!!
"I got a good feeling tonight's gonna be a good night." --Text from 8:11pm
"Great decision to pitch Burnett on the road...does anyone listen to me." --Same texter, 8:20pm
As I mentioned in my preview of the game, there was little to no chatter about said decision to start the inconsistent AJ. Which is probably because IT WAS A GOOD DECISION.
Did it work out? No. Did it actually play out terribly? Yes. But who would have seen that coming? He's 4-0 with a 2.55 in 4 career short rest starts. He was astounding in his last start. This is the World Series, and you want to put in Chad Gaudin, a slightly above-par 4th starter (at best) to pitch instead of your purchased-for-this-exact-reason #2 guy?
AJ got chased early, after an offensive explosion that began with Chase Utley's 3-run homer in the first. A lot happened in the game, and so it's easy to forget this particular ding (especially since it seems Utley hits about 3 of them per game), but I'd argue that this should have just been a 2-run homer.
Shane Victorino got hit by a pitch to put him on base in the AB prior, while squaring off to bunt. The ball looked to be in the strike zone and as such, it should have been ruled a strike. But, eh, semantics. Who's the say he wouldn't have gotten on base with the next pitch, anyway?
A 3-1 deficit isn't too daunting for the Yankees, but with Cliff Lee on the mound, it's a bit challenging. And a 6-1 deficit is even more deflating, which is the score the Yankees were faced with by the time AJ got yanked in the third in favor of David Robertson.
And that's when I first heard from a nearby bar-goer and Yankee fan, "Well, I guess I'll see you for Game 6 then."
Are you kidding me?? It's the third inning of the World Series, and you're giving up on a game when your team is the best comeback club in the entire league??
That's also around the time I started hearing all the "I knew they shouldn't have pitched AJ" 20-20 hindsight analyses.
The Yankees didn't tack on another run til Johnny Damon grounded out at first to score Eric Hinske. Tim McCarver launches into his favorite stat ever about the frequency in which leadoff walks score, and I'm pretty sure it's preposterous to say, as he did, that "leadoff walks always score."
(I actually did some research on this one, because it sounded about as credible as a Snapple cap fact, and it turns out that:)
a.) A leadoff walk leads to a run 39.7% of the time.
b.) It doesn't matter whether it's a leadoff walk or leadoff single. If a batter reaches first, the percentage is the same. It's misleading and incomplete to assert that this statistical significance is unique to a leadoff walk, when technically, there's actually 23 ways to reach base.
Whatever, maybe I'm holding T-Mac to too high of standards, considering that his incisive perspective had just delivered us, "Just because AJ threw a lot of first pitch strikes in his last game doesn't necessarily mean he will do it in another game."
I am not even kidding when I say that these types of comments make me seriously think he may have some kind of physiological mental hiccup or something.
At any rate, with the score 6-2 and T-Mac's lips flapping about leadoff walks, the inning ends without the Yanks capitalizing any further on their newfound ability to actually knock some shots off Cliff Lee. Unlike Game 1, they were connecting for good shots...they were just getting hit directly at people.
(Which, of course, then spurred some "Well, you can't ask for a better hit than that" booth assertions. Well, actually, Fox, you CAN ask for a better hit. You can ask for the ball to leave the park. Or even for the ball to get hit 5 feet to the left of the outfielder so as not to get caught.)
Alfredo Aceves relieved D-Rob in the bottom of the fifth and continued the very satisfactory bullpen relief. It wasn't until Phil Coke came in the bottom of the 7th that the Phils started up again on the scoring.
Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez both knocked solo shots off him (and if I get bored waiting for tomorrow's game, I may go back through my postseason recaps and see how many times that sentence has been written.)
In the top of the 8th, the Yanks started doing what the Yankees do, which is chipping away at the lead. Damon and Mark Teixiera reached on hits, and a long double from A-Rod scored them both.
Which is right around the time the "And now those 2 solo shots in the 7th are really looming large for the Yanks" cliches started flying around the broadcast booth. It was like auditing Sports Announcing 101.
It was also when all the "guess I'll see you for Game 6" naysayers changed their tune to "You NEVER give up on this team! LET'S GO YANKEES!" On the one hand, I think, Ok great, the more Yankee optimisim, the better. But on the other hand, the palpable back-and-forth from one end of the hope spectrum to the other, really wasn't sitting well with me.
We'd crucify our teams if they didn't play all 27 outs. Why should it be any different for fans?
With the score 5-8 heading into the 9th, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui led off the inning with hits, and Jeter grounded into a double play to score a run but make the likelihood of a comeback slightly less of a likelihood. Damon singles. Tex strikes out.
Game over. We're heading back home.
The Game 6 match-up is a doozy, with short-rested Andy Pettitte (over/under on pessimistic columns on this precarious scenario: 56) versus a well-hated Pedro Martinez. The remaining available arms for this series is going to be what makes or breaks either team.
Cliff Lee's Game 5 start precludes him from a Game 7 start, though he could have been available out of the pen...IF he hadn't been kept in for 112 pitches. That's the last we'll see of this guy til 2010. Even if Pedro shellacks our offensive tomorrow, we'd have Cole Hamels to look forward to in Game 7.
(Cole Hamels. The same guy who told reporters he "just can't wait to get the season over with." That's who they're potentially putting on the mound for a must-win Game 7.)
I'm happy you're coming back to where you belong, Yankees. There's a certain symmetry to christening the new home.
And there's also something fitting about old school vs old school in new school. It'd have been nice to win in 5...but maybe my mom's right. Maybe the best way to win is to do it at home, and to do it against old foes.
It's up to you, New York, Newwwwww Yorkkkk...
Read 2009 Baseball Throwdown coverage for the New York Yankees.