Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Something's Bugging Yankee Fans


After watching the Yankees fall three games to one in the ALDS people can’t help but wonder what might have been. The Yankees seemed poised to steal home field advantage from the Indians in game 2, regrouping from a 12-3 beat down in game 1, only to have their efforts derailed by a swarm of flying insects known as midges. Refer to your local entomologist for more details.

The bugs were thick and players on both sides were struggling to cope with the waterborne pests but the Indians prevailed. Fausto Carmona had just as many midges crawling around on his face as Joba Chamberlain but it was the pampered reliever who struggled with the infestation. Fausto tuned out every distraction and threw 9 innings of lock down baseball while Joba fell apart. At least he didn’t make excuses for it after the game.

That hasn’t stopped others from throwing a tizzy. Roger Clemens whined about the bugs and said that the umpires should have delayed the game. George Steinbrenner took a break from threatening Joe Torre long enough to call Bud Selig and cry foul. Everybody seems to think that the bugs cost the Yankees the game and now that New York has lost another divisional series you can bet the innocent midges will take the heat for that. Never mind the fact that A-Rod sucked out loud yet again, or that Derek "God" Jeter played poorly in every aspect of the game.
Forget about Rocket laying an egg in game three and forcing Torre to exhaust his bullpen early. Thanks, pops. Now about that 18 million...I didn't see any insects forcing Wang to post an ERA so inflated it can only be quantified with exponents. And can we think about blaming Steinbrenner for applying undue pressure? By putting Joe Torre’s future on the line, Steinbrenner made it impossible for the players to relax and play naturally. Every mistake was another nail in Torre’s coffin. Maybe the Yankees lost on purpose just so they could get a break from Big Stein. Sometimes the owner needs to shut up and let the players play.

By the way, the umpires did delay the game. Everybody got to soak themselves in copious amounts of OFF. Unfortunately the unseasonably warm temperatures triggered a massive hatch and the bright lights of Jacobs field attracted millions of the harmless bugs. The lush grass drew the bugs to field level and the sweaty players rendered the repellant moot. Umpires aren’t supposed to stop play unless safety becomes an issue and the bugs, though annoying, did not pose any threat. Delaying the game for an extended period of time probably would have made matters worse as more midges became active throughout the night. Were they supposed to throw the entire post season into disarray because a couple of Yankees had got a case of the heebie jeebies?

The reason the umpires didn’t see any risk to the players was because only a few players seemed adversely affected. Doug Mientkiewicz acted as though he was going to die after inadvertently eating one and Joba tried to pitch with his eyes closed. They probably drowned their sorrows in Cosmopolitans after the series and they might take their mind off the loss with a day at the spa. Pedicures for everybody! Most of the players seemed capable of tuning the bugs out when it was time to play. Even her royal highness A-Rod and Dame Derek Jeter sucked it up when it counted. If Fausto Carmona had gone wild as well a delay might have been in order but the call on the field was that the bugs were a distraction that the players simply had to overcome. The conditions were fair and safe. Get over it.

New York fans can bitterly crack jokes about Cleveland but the Yankees will spend another off season trying to figure out where they went wrong. Steinbrenner will bluster, Torre will get the boot and A-Rod will opt out of his contract…he’ll probably end up winning a World Series in a classier city with better fans. Meanwhile Cleveland, swarms of midges notwithstanding, is reveling in a hard fought win. Even if they fall short against the Red Sox the team seems back on track and will remain in contention for a number of years. The Yankees are in trouble. The Boss might not be able to buy them out of the hole they’re in right now so they’ll whine about what might have been if those pesky midges hadn’t made an appearance in game 2. In all honesty, they would have lost anyway. The Yankees have no leadership and no heart.

The bottom line is that the Indians were the better team. They wanted to win more than the Yankees did. The bugs didn’t discriminate in game 2; they bothered everybody. The difference was that the Indians weren’t looking for an excuse. The Yankees came unglued because they aren't a real team. That’s one thing money can’t buy. New York is a collection of gutless prima donnas who don’t know what toughness is. The midges made it easy to give up.

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