Last night, on WABC-Channel 7's Eyewitness News, they were joking about the last 3 games of the American League season being The Twilight Zone.
I can hear Rod Serling now:
Submitted for your approval: The New York Yankees, having already won 97 of their first 159 games, now playing a team which, if it wins, would hurt the Yankees' ancient rivals, the Boston Red Sox, who are engaged in one of the epic collapses of baseball history. Yankee losses to the Tampa Bay club would benefit, perhaps not the Yankees themselves, but Yankee Fans, who, nearly as much as they enjoy seeing the Yankees win, enjoy seeing the Red Sox lose. These are baseball games being played, not in Tropicana Field or at Camden Yards... but in the Twilight Zone.
Or, to put it another way... Rod Serling has an explanation for this bullshit, but if you're a Red Sox fan, you wouldn't want to hear it.
Last night, despite Robinson Cano's 28th home run, the Yankees lost to the Rays, 5-2. WP: James Shields (16-12). SV: Kyle Farnsworth (24 -- Kyle Farnsworth has 24 saves/ Wow, this really is the Twilight Zone!). LP: Hector Noesi (2-2).
On WCBS, John Sterling was commenting on how the Rays' fans were into it, and that this was a rarity for them. Well, attendance at The Trop was 18,772. I've seen more people at Red Bulls games. So they ain't that into it.
Meanwhile, on the docks of the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, the Red Sox made it 17 of their last 22. Josh "Super Punk" Beckett was fine until the 6th, but the Orioles struck for 4 runs in that inning, and won, 6-3.
Attendance was 21,786. In other words, the 2 games combined had an attendance that wouldn't completely fill either stadium. Not only that, but I'll bet the majority of the fans that showed up in St. Petersburg, and the majority of fans showing up in Baltimore, were rooting for the visiting teams. Like Yankee Fans, Red Sox fans travel well. Also, there are a lot of ex-New Yorkers in Florida, and some New Englanders who work in some capacity for the federal government may have come up from Washington to Baltimore.
Essentially, it comes down to this: One team must better the other over the next 2 nights. If either team goes 0-2, the other must go at least 1-1. If either goes 1-1, the other must go 2-0. If they finish tied, the 1st tiebreaker is the ultimate tiebreaker: A head-to-head single-game Playoff.
There have been 5 such games in AL history, and the Red Sox have been involved in 2 of them. This is not a good omen for them:
October 3, 1948: The AL race was nearly a 3-way tie. The Red Sox and Cleveland Indians finished 1 game ahead of the Yankees, but the Indians went into Fenway Park and shocked the Sox, 8-3, and went on to win the World Series -- still the last won by the franchise.
October 2, 1978: Also known as the Bucky Dent Game or the Boston Tie Party. The Sox led the Milwaukee Brewers by 9 1/2 games and the Yankees by 14 on July 20. As late as September 1, they still led the Yankees by 6 1/2. And they blew it, in large part to the "Boston Massacre" series, a 4-game Yankee sweep in Fenway that left the teams tied on September 10. The Yankees built to a 3 1/2-game lead on September 16, after taking 2 of 3 from the Sox at the original Yankee Stadium, before the Sox salvaged the finale and ended up winning 12 of their last 14, including their last 8, to force the tie. But the Yankees won it, 5-4, on home runs by Bucky Blessed Dent and Reggie Jackson, and went on to win the World Series.
The others: 1995, the California Angels blew a huge AL West lead and lost a Playoff to the Seattle Mariners, and didn't even get the Wild Card; 2008, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox went down to the wire in the AL Central and the White Sox won; and 2009, the Detroit Tigers blew a bit of a lead in the AL Central and lost a Playoff to the Twins.
(EDIT: I originally had 2006, rather than 2009, listed as when the Tigers blew a huge AL Central lead and lost to the Twins, but still qualified as the Wild Card and won the Pennant. As one of my readers pointed out, that collapse was completed without the aid of a one-game Playoff. It's strange how I remember 1978 far better than I remember 2009, even though the Yankees also won the World Series in that season.)
A one-game Playoff to decide whether their 2011 season is at least a partial success, or a spectacular failure? I don't think the Red Sox or their fans want that situation.
Do I care what The Scum or their Chowdahead fans want? No way. They can go... to the Twilight Zone.
In case you're wondering, there was a baseball-themed episode of The Twilight Zone: "The Mighty Casey," airing on June 17, 1960, about a pitcher who gets disqualified because he's a robot, and is then given an "artificial heart" so he qualifies as "human," but won't pitch anymore because he's afraid of hurting batters with his great speed.
Rod Serling was from Binghamton, New York, which, in his youth, was home to an Eastern League (Double-A) team called the Binghamton Triplets, a Yankee farm team for most of their existence and winners of 10 Pennants between 1929 and 1967. They were known as the Triplets for much the same reason that the Minnesota team was named the Twins after the "Twin Cities": The "Triple Cities" were Binghamton, Endicott, and the city where their ballpark actually was, Johnson City.
Since 1992, Binghamton has been home to another Eastern League team, the Binghamton Mets, or the B-Mets. Of course, a farm club of the Flushing ballclub. Talk about a team in a twilight zone. A dimension of sight and sound, but, considering the Mets' history, not exactly one of mind!