There was no better testament to what's seated at the forefront of Yankee fans' minds then when Nick Swisher very awkwardly misplayed the fly ball that scored the go-ahead run:
A month ago, the bar would have thrown its hands up in aggravation. Typical Swish! Bobbles the cans of corn, nails the web gems! Grumble grumble. Get your head in the game, boy.
Tonight? Me and the bartender shouted in unison: "DON'T GET HURT!"
At the risk of sounding like a Second Play Red Sox fan who's been bitterly arguing for the last 2 weeks that these games are meaningless, I will say that losing the last home game, in a game we could have won against the Royals, with a loss that snapped a hot winning streak...actually didn't get me too riled up tonight.
There was, of course, the requisite sting. But after briefly commiserating with the other Yankee fans populating the bar, the consensus was a resounding: "I love this team. And their biggest games are still ahead of them."
I'll tackle the one negative aspect of the night first. And you probably know what's coming, since it's basically become a boilerplate element in anything I write now, (I think it's even inadvertantly come into play in thank you notes, receipt signing, and a grocery list):
I've been panned left, right, and center for outright dismissing him for the better part of the seasons.
The Yankees are about to enter the most important period of the season, and the argument can be made that with the unquestionably best team in baseball, this is the most critical opportunity they've had in since 2001 to make something happen. That said, is there a Yankee fan on the face of the planet who is comfortable with Joba starting in the playoffs?
In his last 10 starts, he's 1-4 with a 7.75 , giving up 56 hits in 40 2/3 innings.
According to Joba, this the result of a combination of factors: poor fastball command (that's a start...) and "the first cooler days of the fall." (Well, sure. I mean the bitter 55 degree arctic climate of Manhattan is gong to dramatically impact any young midwestern transplant who still tightly clings to many childhood memories of balmy Nebraskan winters.) Rule #76, buddy...
While Joba is absolutely a much better pitcher than Sergio Mitre, both inspire the same level of confidence in me. And both have the same chance of either dealing or bombing. It's a fun little game of Russian Roulette with every Joba start. Are we gonna see the guy who seamlessly made quick work of the Sox last week, cruising through 6 innings on 86 pitches? Or are we gonna see tonight's Joba, who lasted 3 2/3 innings, and who needed 91 pitches to walk 4, give up 3 runs on 7 hits, with only a little over half of his first pitches being called for strikes?
Maybe he turns into David Cone come the playoffs. Anything's possible. But what makes this risk more rational than say, batting Brett Gardner in clean up? As far as I can tell, there's about the same chance of our little firecracker slugging in heaps of RBIs...as there is of Joba waking up, giving the old "Shelled or Excelled" wheel of fortune a spin, and getting a positive reading.
Well, my mom always says that everything happens for a reason, and everything works out for the best. So maybe tonight's loss was a good thing? Maybe we needed a loss to spotlight the liability with this pseudo-starter?
(Ah, I"m feeling a little nostalgic...my last regular season Joba rant! We've had some "good" times...)
As for the rest of the game:
- It would have been cool to get another comeback win and even cooler to break the record for most wins in a stadium's season (57, currently tied with Fenway). But I'm all for picking our battles, so to speak. I'm ok with a loss because it's like they're saving their best dramatics for the playoffs. Plus there's a verrrrry little part of me that gets a little paranoid about "no-end-in-sight" hot streaks, ever since the Rockies' run in 2007. Momentum isn't foolproof. Just ask Endy Chavez.
- Jorge Posada made a throw to second in the 5th to try to catch Mark Teahen. While he was rightly called safe, I couldn't help but marvel at the throw--a bullet zipped from home, without ever moving out of the catcher's squat. A perfect, sharp zinger that was made from his knees. I don't extol Jorge's virtues enough, but you gotta wonder where we'd be without him and his 4-out-of-5 tool threat.
- After KC scored in the first off third-string catcher Brayan Pena's RBI single, Derek Jeter responded in the bottom of the inning with a solo blast. For the rest of the game, it was the B. Pena, Teahen, Billy Butler, and John Buck circus act of run-manufacturing. The best the Yanks could do was a 2-run shot from Swish, (I really thought we had the game won after that).
- With game tied at 3-3 and when it was later 4-3, I realized that with each Yankee batter stepping up, I thought every single one of them had a good chance to win the game for us. I remember days of the confidence peaks and troughs, but right now? The words "bottom of the order" mean nothing.
- I really liked the fact that the YES Players of the Game were the Yankee fans.
- I also really liked the fact there's someone named Tug Hulett playing professional baseball, when he sounds like he should be bursting into choreographed musical numbers as the guileless hero in an off-Broadway musical.
- When the game ended and I started to leave the bar to head home, a couple of Sox fans did that whole passive-aggressive-shot-at-your-team-while-you're-walking-by move.
"Hey, the Yankees lost, by the way."
Really, Second Place Sox Fans? Are you really going down this route?
Words actually failed me. I think Boston fans are possibly the last people who should open their mouths tonight.
"Just wait til October," one continued. "You're only as good as the last game you played."
(To be clear, the Red Sox lost tonight for the 6th consecutive game. 12-0.)
So...I guess it's safe to say that Sox fans have officially removed reason and sense from the table.
The postseason nears. So let's savor these last 3 games before our own levelheadedness gets taken out of the picture, as well.