Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Evil Vanquished

So what have learned?

That Paul O'Neill was the greatest Yankee player since Reggie.

Haven't checked the stats, but his contribution may not be in the stats. The apparent fact is that he carried them through the post-seasons during their glory days in the late 90s, and when he was done in 2001, the Yankees were done.

Their division titles and one---count 'em, one---League Chamipionship since have been echoes. We thought we were seeing the old Yankees every fall but we were really looking at some weird warp in the space time continuum that produced illusions of pinstriped uniforms on the field.

Scott Lemieux almost gave up hope after the Yankees came back on Sunday to win it. But I never worried that we'd have to watch them in the World Series.

They were finished by the time they got to Boston for the final series of the regular season. So were the Red Sox, but the Red Sox had to face a good baseball team in their playoff, while the Yankees lucked out with the Angels, who have no business being in the post-season. What it looks like to me is that Seattle, Oakland, Texas, and the Angels drew straws to see which one of them would have the dubious honor of representing their thoroughly mediocre division in the playoffs and the Angels chose the short straw.

Then they played pick up games against each other all season until it was time for the Angels to go lose to whatever real baseball team won a lot of games in a truly competitive division.

Amazingly, they found themselves up against a mirage of the New York Yankees.

I have to admit, however, that my Yankee hatred is vestigial these days. Joe Torre's teams have never been as thoroughly obnoxious as the great Yankee teams of the past. Just to begin with, it's really hard to hate a team that has Bernie Williams on it.

It helped, though, when they picked up Sheffield. He's fun to hate.

And while I'll be sorry to see Joe go, he will be gone, and I'm counting on Steinbrenner finding someone truly unlikable to take over. Larry Bowa, maybe.

Meanwhile, over in the NL, I've been glad to see that no one yet has made any comparisons between the Astros and Braves' marathon Sunday and the greatest playoff game ever played, beyond noting that this Astros team took two more innings to win than the 86 Astros took to lose.

It will hard to beat that one. Besides it being just a tremendous game itself, it finished off one of the best playoff series ever, which happened to be played between two teams that had hated each other all season long. I still clench my teeth when I hear the name Mike Scott.

And it was played at the same time as one of the other very best playoff series ever. Last year's comebacks barely top what the Red Sox did against the Angels in that one, and I think all you need to know about Red Sox fans is that the name Dave Henderson is not anywheres near as well remembered as Bill Buckner's.

And both these series set the stage for one of the greatest World Series ever played. The only thing that would have made it better would have been for Game 7's having some suspense. The Series was over when the ball scooted through Buckner's legs. Even though the Sox were ahead for a while, the seventh game looked and felt like an exhibition game and the forgone conclusion was written on Jim Rice's scowling face all game long.

Even Gedman and Evans looked defeated as they trotted the bases after hitting home runs, as if they knew that Fate was just toying with them.

By the way, Rice should not have to wait for the Old Timers' Committee to put him in to get his plaque in the Hall of Fame.

But the gloriousness of that game between the Astros and Mets was also due to its being played during the day in the middle of the work week. The whole country stopped to watch. Roger Angell wrote a wonderful essay describing how he made his way through Manhattan that day, island hopping from television set to radio to TV, and everywhere he went crowds of people who had pretty much quit work for the day were gathered round.

The blonde and I had a similar experience in 93 as we walked across downtown Philadelphia while the Phillies and the Braves fought it out for 10 innings. But that was on Columbus Day and half the City was shut down anyway, so it wasn't quite as exciting.

Game was only 10 innings but it was a long game. Don't know why. It was a pitcher's duel most of the way. It went on so long that they were playing when we got on the train to go back to the blonde's parents' home in the suburbs and they were still playing when we walked in the door. We got back in time to see the Braves tie it up in the bottom of the 9th.

Phillies went ahead in the top of the 10th and won it, while it was still daylight out!

Maybe one of these days the powers that be at Major League Baseball will come to their senses and realize that for the greater good of the game they should start playing more playoff games and World Series games during the day.

There're probably greater long-term profits in it too. Sure, you can charge more for ads during a night game, but what good will it do when all the little kids who aren't watching because the games are on past their bedtimes grow up with no real attachment to baseball?

How young are you if you remember the teacher telling everyone to close their books at 2 in the afternoon and rolling out a TV so your class, and the teacher, could watch the World Series?

I'm sure I'm as devoted a baseball fan as I am now because my earliest World Series memories are of me keeping close track of the games so I could give my dad all the details he missed on his drive home, early, from work. He always listened and asked careful questions too and never reminded me he had a radio in the car.

And this, by the way, Domoni, is partly why I'm going to be rooting for the Cardinals against Chicago in the Series. I spent a lot of time when I was little studying Bob Gibson's scowl, which was never, ever, ever, defeated like Jim Ed Rice's.

Yep, that's my prediction. The Cardinals against the White Sox. The Good Guys against the Other Good Guys, while the evil Yankees sit home dreaming of next year and wondering who their manager's going to be.

At any rate:

Best Playoffs? Best World Series? Best World Series?


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