Thursday, June 24, 2010
Raising Hell in Arizona, Bring On the L.A. Bums
In the top of the 10th, Curtis Granderson hit a home run to give the Yanks a 6-5 lead. In the bottom of the 9th, Mariano Rivera loaded the bases with nobody out. He was actually in a bigger jam than he got himself into in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series in the same ballpark. But this time, he got out of it with no runs coming home.
Mariano may be the first Caribbean pitcher whose age is suspect in the other direction. Are we sure he's really 40, and not 35?
While these last 2 games aren't full revenge for the 2001 World Series, they sure did feel good. To get full revenge, we'd have to beat the Diamondbacks in a World Series. You know, like the Mets would have to do to us, which will never, ever happen, and that won't be our fault. Besides, it's not like we have to live in the same metro area with a million or so Diamondback fans.
Of course, there's another way to get full revenge on the Diamondbacks: Steroid testing on Curt Schilling and Luis Gonzalez. '01 D-back Matt Williams has already been caught, but that's hardly enough, even if he did hit a home run in that Series. It made him, fairly we thought, the first man to hit World Series home runs for 3 different teams.
In addition, the Yankees gained another game on both the Red Sox and the Rays. The Sox took a 6-5 lead over the Colorado Rockies into the bottom of the 9th at Coors Field in Denver, but Jonathan Papelbon gave up home runs to Ian Stewart and... remember this guy?... Jason Giambi! Papelbum blows it again.
Stewart is 25, now has 44 career home runs, including 25 last season and 8 so far this year, counting last night, and looks like a rising star. Giambi is 39 and is pretty much done, it was only his 3rd homer of the year, but the 412th of his career. It's the biggest favor he's done the Yankees -- really, all of humanity -- since his 2 homers, and those 4 straight 8th-inning hits off Pedro the Punk Martinez, on October 16, 2003 made Aaron Boone's homer possible.
The Rays' loss, 5-4 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg to the San Diego Padres, wasn't nearly so dramatic, but the winning run was singled home in the 7th by another former Yankee, one of last year's World Series-winning heroes, Jerry Hairston Jr.
The Yankees are now 2 1/2 games ahead of both the Sox and the Rays, but the Rays are 2 back in the loss column, the Sox 3.
The Yankees have today off, and fly out to Los Angeles to play 3 with the Dodgers at Walter O'Malley's Temple of Greed. This will be the first time the Yankees ever play a regular-season game against a team managed by Joe Torre. His pre-Yankee managing jobs were all in the National League, and he never won a Pennant before coming to the Yankees, so the only games we ever played against him were spring training or, while he ran the Mets, the Mayor's Trophy Game.
To Met fans, the Mayor's Trophy meant everything. But Yankee Fans agreed with Billy Martin. Say it with me: "It's an exhibition game, George! It doesn't mean anything!"
But, for those of you who do think it means something, the Yankees held the all-time lead in that exhibition game, which ran from 1963 to 1983. The Yankees won it 10 times (1964, '66, '70, '71, '72, '74, '75, '76, '78, '83), the Mets 8 (1963, '65, '67, '68, '69, '73, '77, '82), and there was 1 tie (1979). The Mets won the first game, 6-2, on June 20, 1963 at the old Yankee Stadium; the Yankees won the last game, 4-1, on April 21, 1983 at Shea Stadium.
Of course, in the games that really matter, the Yankees lead, 4-1. Those are the World Series games between the teams, the only games that deserve the name "Subway Series."
The Yankees have played the World Series against the Los Angeles edition of the Dodgers 4 times: 1963, Dodgers swept, clinched at Dodger Stadium; 1977, Yankees in 6, Reggie goes boom, boom, boom, clinched at Yankee Stadium; 1978, Dodgers took the first 2 in L.A., Yanks took the next 4 straight, Graig Nettles put on a fielding clinic at 3rd base in Game 3, Reggie Jackson had his "Sacrifice Thigh" in Game 4, Lou Piniella singled home Roy White to win Game 4 in 10 innings, Bob Welch fanned Reggie to end Game 2 but Reggie launched some 450-foot revenge in Game 6, clinched at Dodger Stadium; and 1981, Yanks took first 2, but Bums took next 4, clinching at Yankee Stadium.
That last one, I was just short of 12 years old, and I still haven't gotten over that ignominious defeat. George Steinbrenner actually apologized to Yankee Fans for the loss. I don't know what he was apologizing for: He wasn't the one who failed to hit or failed to stop the Dodgers from hitting. Still, how many team owners, in any sport, would apologize to the fans for failing to win the whole thing?
Dodger Stadium is now 48 years old, and the 3rd-oldest active MLB park, behind only 98-year-old Fenway Park in Boston and 96-year-old Wrigley Field in Chicago. The other L.A.-area park, whatever the Angels are calling Anaheim Stadium these days, is the next-oldest in the American League, at 44, a few months older than the Oakland Coliseum. I'm getting old: There are only 4 big-league parks still in use that were in use before I was born, and only one other that was in use before I was old enough to watch baseball, Kansas City's 37-year-old Kauffman Stadium (which I knew as Royals Stadium).
In Brooklyn, the Dodgers were affectionately known as "Dem Bums." In Los Angeles, they're just bums. Once, they were the franchise of Jackie Robinson. Now, they are identified first and foremost with man who moved them out of Brooklyn, Walter O'Malley. Second, with that sanctimonious tub of goo, Tommy Lasorda. Third, with Steve Garvey, who "is not my Padre."
Fernando Valenzuela and Kirk Gibson are long gone. The Dodgers haven't won a Pennant in 22 years. That's not as long as some teams have had to wait, but when you consider that they won 9 Pennants and 5 World Series in their first 31 seasons in L.A., that the Angels have since won a World Series, and that the Lakers just won another title, it makes the Dodgers look like failures.
For crying out loud, they've now lost more National League Championship Series to the Philadelphia Phillies (3, 1983, 2008 and '09) than they've won from them (2, 1977 and '78). The Phils are thought of as postseason successes now; the Dodgers, postseason failures. That's an even bigger shock than the Phillies pulling off a "miracle" full of "magic" and the Mets a "collapse" and a "choke" -- twice (2007 and '08)!
Where have you gone, Orel Hershiser? A region turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.