Monday, April 26, 2004

The Yankee Way

In case you haven't figuring it out yet, The Ninth is based in New York. Born and raised in Boston, the home office now resides in Brooklyn, NY, where I pursue the theatre career that will one day result in The Ninth: On Broadway. 99% of the time, this causes a more irritating baseball life. You get stuff thrown at you at the ballpark, curses tossed your way on the train, insults hurled at you from the newspaper. It stinks. Every now and again though, maybe once or twice a year, it can be a real boon. The last thing a New Yorker expects is to have "Th-uh-uh-uh-uh Yankees Lose" yelled at them John Sterling style from an open city window. No Yankee fan is prepared for a fellow subway traveler to look adoringly at the back page of their NY Post and laugh at the picture of Jeter striking out. Sure, they come to Boston or wander into the Riviera (the main NY Sox bar), they know what might happen. But if you can get them when they don't expect it, that's when it really hurts. After Game 1 of last year's ALCS, it seemed like maybe we would have that chance. Boston won commandingly, behind their #3 starter, and we all thought there might be something here. After the victory, The Ninth took to the local bars to see what a depressed Yankee fan looked like. Problem is, there weren't any. No one moping by the pool table, no one slugging back an extra J&B, no one crying on the telephone to their Mom. We cared, they didn't. It was annoying. As the series progressed you could feel the tension rise in the city, but let's be honest, it never got all that high. This was the battle of our lives, a chance to finally vanquish the great bully, and to them it was just another ear to flick. And I had to watch it all. When the Yankees won, as they always do, there was distinct relief, but no actual pleasure. "Hey look, we won again. Ha." If I'm gonna have my heart broken, I would at least like it to not be a casual event. But that's the way it is, for now. The little victories have kept me going though, they keep all of us going, while we wait and dream of how delicious the big victory will be. This weekend was a little one, but boy was it tasty.

The Red Sox won three games. Three out of three, in fact. In Yankee Stadium. A week after taking three of four in Boston. And hey, that's real nice. Rather win 'em them lose 'em. But at this point in the season, the teams aren't playing the way they will be and two-series dominance is basically anecdotal. But the good news is, the Red Sox seem to know that. Read any articles about players patting each other on the back? Anyone mentioning how difficult it would be for the Yanks to take the season series now? How about a decisive declaration of superiority? Nope. We get, from Manny Ramirez of all people: "The object here is to win the World Series, not to beat the Yankees. They're the ones who got the rings. We don't got nothing." A little bit of that Yankee non-challenge, no? Yeah we won, a lot, but who cares? This isn't the only thing we've got to do. Yankee kingdom isn't quite so calm. Cashman says they're "in an abyss", Jeter is getting booed, Torre feels it's "terrible". They're 3 games under .500 folks, after 19 games. Big whoop. Anyone really think this club is winning less than 95 games? So why the concern? Maybe it's the way they're losing. In the 6th inning on Sunday, David Ortiz popped a ball down the left field line between Jeter and Matsui. They both pursued at about 90%, looked back at one another, took a great last lunge, and let the ball drop for a double. A confused, unseemly, AAA error. Just about the last thing an old Yankee team would've done. They were precise. They never made mistakes, always got out of the inning, and when you screwed up, they made you pay. How many times did the '98 Yankees miss a cut off man much less a fly ball? Those were teams that knew they were better than you, hung around, and waited for you to prove it. This club isn't sure if it's better than Tampa Bay, and you can see it their play. Their days of waiting a starter out have gone on vacation. Three innings of shut down middle relief is taking a powder. Nobody looks like they're dying for the ball to be hit to them. Casual errors just didn't happen to the David Cone, Paul O'Neill Yankees, but they seem to come up over and over to the Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi ones. Chances are, in a month all this stuff will be a distant bad memory for New York. They are awfully good players. But you know what? I'd be worried too. But I'm not. I'm sitting by my window, clearing my throat, waiting and hoping.