Thursday, October 11, 2012

NFL Picks Week Six: This is why everyone hates the Yankees

Well, I don't really hate the Yankees, truth be told. My relationship with New York's other baseball team is actually a bizarre and somewhat circuitous one that vacillates between hatred and indifference. When the pinstripes won the World Series in 1996, 11-year-old me was actually vaguely excited and impressed by the pageantry, but by the late 1990s and early 2000s jealousy had reared its ugly head and I was full of flat-out hatred for that team in the Bronx. It was a pretty standard trope for folks like me, die-hards who watched diligently as their team suffered one disappointment after another while the other team in the public sphere won four championships in five seasons -- all during my formative years as a sports fan to boot.

But then in college, things got weird.

Everyone has a tendency to be curious, to wonder, to experiment just a little, and in my case that took the form of a girlfriend who happened to feel about the Yankees the way I felt about the Mets. This wasn't as big an obstacle as one might think even though when I was first told of her Yankee fandom my immediate -- and entirely serious response -- was "Oh, we'd probably never get along," but for the duration of our relationship my disdain for the Yankees was muted almost entirely and by the time we broke up I had no energy to re-discover the hate.

I haven't found it yet either, and I don't really plan to. After all, the Yankees and Mets play just six times a year -- four starting next season -- and don't directly compete for a playoff spot. But I know all too well why everyone else hates them and periodic reminders come up. Look no further than earlier this season when my father and I saw the Yankees play the Blue Jays and while Toronto would eventually win the day, it took 11 innings. That game appeared all but over in the ninth until Derek Jeter, whose long-ball proficiency I had been deriding all game, clocked a game-tying dinger to force extras, which prompted from me the only response anyone ever has in these situations.

"This fucking team."

So let's fast-forward to last night when the Yankees, despite a stellar outing by starter Hiroki Kuroda, were just two outs away from dropping Game 3 of the ALDS against Baltimore, which would send them to the brink of elimination against their upstart division rivals. Granted, Games 4 and 5 would still be in the Bronx, but the Orioles have shown no worry about playing on the road. Perhaps most importantly, coming up to bat was Alex Rodriguez, favorite disdained whipping boy of the New York fan base because his obscene salary, which the Yankees could have reasonably foreseen would be ridiculous on a ten-year deal signed by someone at the age of 32 five years ago, somehow obscures the fact that he's won two MVPs, two AL home run titles, an RBI title, three Silver Sluggers and a World Series to go with his seven All-Star Game appearances with the Yankees and has career postseason numbers that would work out to an .855 OPS, 30 home runs and 94 RBI when extrapolated over a 162-game season. Granted, his numbers have been mediocre lately, and then we throw in the fact that the Orioles hadn't suffered a walk-off loss all season -- something no other team has accomplished since 1900 -- and, you know, the game looked pretty much over.

Oh, but Joe Girardi decided, "Hey, why not pinch-hit for the struggling 37-year-old past-his-prime star with the baby of Voldermort and Nero!" I mean, Girardi must have known what he was doing. He's a smart guy. Still, replacing an aging 37-year-old slugger with an aging 40-year-old slugger is not supposed to be a recipe for victory. But after all of these years, I suppose I should have seen this coming. And this too.

See, it's not really that these things are happening for the Yankees and not for our team. It's that they always happen for the Yankees. And they never happen for our teams. Ever. This is an absurd, improbable baseball event that is supposed to be unlikely and yet after a while becomes expected if you happen to wear navy and white. I refuse to use phrases like "October Magic" or the "Ghosts of Yankee Stadium", particularly when ghosts aren't real and this isn't the real Yankee Stadium, but there is something truly irksome to the rest of the world about how everything always works out for this team and how, with the exception of the Bronx Zoo in the 1970s, everyone on the team is always happy about it. Hell, even A-Rod was happy about it.

How is it that a team that pulled the miracle of back-to-back two-out two-run game-tying homers in the 2001 World Series and Aaron Boone out of its ass continues to get the mysterious gifts of fortune like this? It beggars belief, begs explanation and flat out befuddles those of us who like any of the other 29 teams in baseball.

Don't get me wrong. Yankee fans know they've got it good. They just don't seem to realize by how significant a margin the justice of the baseball universe is out of balance. The rest of us may not grasp it either, but we have at least a little bit of an idea. The good fortune of the Bronx is by no means rational, understandable or fair. It just plain is. Call it jealousy, call it envy or call it run-of-the-mill frustration, but that is why the rest of us can't stand to see the pinstripes jumping up and down every October.

The only thing even more infuriating than the Bombers' tendency to be the most fortunate group out there in the postseason year after year is the fact that even when the bad fortune strikes them, like, say, Aaron Boone tearing up his knee months after becoming a Yankee hero, the team's only response is to go out and replace him with, arguably, the greatest hitter of all time. There is no lull for the roster or the fans. Everything works out.

Just ask A-Rod. Sometimes all you need is a replacement.

On that note, it's time for some picks.

Last week: 6-8-0
Season: 38-36-3

Pittsburgh (-6) over TENNESSEE
ATLANTA (-9) over Oakland
Cincinnati (-1) over CLEVELAND
St. Louis (+4) over MIAMI
NY JETS (-3) over Indianapolis
Detroit (+4) over PHILADELPHIA
TAMPA BAY (-4) over Kansas City
BALTIMORE (-4) over Dallas
ARIZONA (-5) over Buffalo
New England (-4) over SEATTLE
NY Giants (+7) over SAN FRANCISCO
Minnesota (+2) over WASHINGTON
Green Bay (+4) over HOUSTON
Denver (+1) over SAN DIEGO

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