Friday, September 19, 2008

Around the horn

I’ve had several baseball-related thoughts percolating in my head for a few weeks now. These were all originally conceived as separate posts, but I decided lay them all on you at once…

You win some, you lose some
I’m coming to grips with the fact that the Yankees will not make it to the post-season for the first time since 1993.

A number of years ago, I think it was after the 2000 World Series, I wore a Yankee shirt to work and a co-worker (a White Sox fan) asked me, “Don’t you guys ever get sick of winning?” I answered “No,” and explained to him why. For a good part of my youth in the 1980s and early 90s the Yanks were, shall we say, lackluster. I was well aware that dynasties like that only come along once in a generation. I told him that I knew this gravy train wasn’t going to last forever, so I'd enjoy it for as long as I could.

Well it looks like the ride may be over. It was fun while it lasted. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that the Bronx Bombers will be back. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Tampa terrific
So with the Yankees out of the picture, who am I rooting for in the post season? I’ve got to look to Tampa Bay.

I know it may seem odd for a Yankee fan to talk about rooting for an underdog. So sue me.

But as I’ve told friends all summer, taking off my Yankee fan hat and speaking solely as a baseball fan in general, what the Rays have been doing this year has been great for the game and it’s hard not to root for them.

The last couple of weeks, as the Yanks and the Rays faced of, proved a particular moral dilemma for me. The New York fan in me naturally wanted to root for my Yanks in the slim hope that there could still be some sort of playoff chance. But another part of me knew that wasn’t realistic and understood that every Tampa defeat brought Boston closer to first place. Needless to say, I was glad when those games were over.

So when we get to the post season, I guess I’ll be a Tampa Bay fan for October. That is except for one other team…

Joe Torre’s revenge
Last winter I told people that I didn’t mean to wish ill on Joe Girardi and the Yankees, but I thought it would kind of serve the front office right if the Yankees had a bad season while Joe Torre had nothing but success with the Dodgers.

Be careful what you wish for.

As of today the Dodgers are holding a 3.5 game lead in the NL West. Yeah, sure, they probably wouldn’t be there without Manny Ramirez. I guess I’ll have to give you that. But they were doing pretty well before he showed up. I think even without Manny the Dodgers would have been in the playoff conversation at least as a Wild Card if not a division leader.

The point is, for years the knock against Torre from Yankee-haters was that he deserved very little credit for the teams success – that a well-trained monkey could manage a team with Yankees’ all-star roster.

But look what we have now. Without Torre the Yankees are fighting for third place, while Joe is still successful on the west coast. It serves the Yankee suits right for the way they handled Joe’s departure.

Derek Jeter is the real deal
While we’re in the Rodney Dangerfield territory of those who don’t get no respect, there is Derek Jeter. Often I’ve seen him show up on lists of “overrated athletes.”

But he did something great last Sunday when he notched his 1,270th hit in Yankee Stadium, passing a record held by none other than Lou Gehrig – a record no one else will ever possess after the stadium closes for good Sunday night.

Think about all the greats that have stood at that plate – Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, all of the many hall of famers the team has had through the decades – none of them have had as many hits in Yankee Stadium as Derek Jeter.

As if there was any doubt before, Jeter has cemented his place in Yankee lore. He’s going to be the one my kids tell their kids about – the way I’ve told them about Reggie Jackson and my dad told me about Mickey Mantle and Gehrig himself.

Unquestionably, Jeter’s No. 2 will one day be retired by the Yankees. As for the Hall of Fame, I like to think he gets in, but he’s probably not a sure thing. I think there are a lot of people out there who would still try to argue against it. But the Jeter fans now have another piece of ammunition.


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