Monday, October 15, 2012

They're Trying

Yesterday, the Yankees lost Game 2 of the American League Championship Series to the Detroit Tigers, 4-0.  Hiroki Kuroda seemed to turn into Harvey Haddix: He took a perfect game into the 6th, but the Yankees couldn't score off Anibal Sanchez. The Yankees got just 7 baserunners, and none of them scored.

And the boos came out. Long and hard.

Let's get something straight: I don't think the Yankee Fans are booing individual players -- except for Alex Rodriguez, who, whether he or we like it or not, is the easiest target, because of how much money he makes, and how many times he's failed in postseason play for us.

I think they're booing the failure in general. Nick Swisher is simply the one who's reacted to it. He's got a point: It isn't completely fair. But the fans also have a point: It is partly fair.

It reminds me of Phil Esposito's interview after Game 4 of the 1972 "Summit Series," after the Soviets had embarrassed Team Canada on Canadian soil:

For the people across Canada, we tried. We gave it our best. For the people who booed us, jeez, all of us guys are really disheartened and we're disillusioned, and we're disappointed in some of the people. We cannot believe the bad press we've got, the booing we've gotten in our own buildings.

If the Russian fans boo their players like some of the Canadian fans - I'm not saying all of them - some of them booed us, then I'll come back and apologize to each and every Canadian. But I don't think they will.

I'm really, really, I'm really disappointed. I am completely disappointed. I cannot believe it. Some of our guys are really, really down in the dumps. We know - we're trying. What the hell, we're doing the best we can. They've got a good team, and let's face facts. But it doesn't mean that we're not give it our 150 per cent, because we certainly are.

Every one one of us guys, 35 guys who came out to play for Team Canada, we did it because we love our country, and not for any other reason. They can throw the money for the pension fund out the window, they can throw anything they want out the window. We came because we love Canada. And even though we play in the United States and we earn money in the United States, Canada is still our home, and that's the only reason we come. And I don't think its fair that we should be booed.

Granted, playing for your country is far different from playing for a club -- as Wayne Rooney finds out when he plays international soccer and doesn't have officials who are inclined to give his team the benefit of the doubt simply the team is Manchester United and officials who don't fix matches for Man U have seen their jobs suffer.

But Espo's analogy applies. The Yankees aren't trying to fail. They're just in an awful slump, at the worst possible time. These things happen.

And while Yankee Fans pay an inordinate price for their fandom -- high ticket prices, high food prices, high souvenir prices, and the MTA is about to announce a Subway fare hike -- and they have the right to express their displeasure when the highest-paid team in North American sports doesn't get the job done, certain things have to be realized:

1. Success is not guaranteed, no matter how much money is spent. Ask the Mets. Ask the Boston Red Sox these last 2 years. Ask the Philadelphia Phillies this year. Ask the Los Angeles teams, as both the Dodgers and the Angels have spent a lot of money over the last 10 seasons (2003 to 2012), and have no Pennants between them to show for it.

2. The Yankees aren't trying to fail. A-Rod, Swish, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, yeah, these guys are highly paid professionals and should win -- but they are trying. You think their failures don't bother them? To borrow an analogy from another sport, they're not throwing in the towel. They keep fighting. They don't seem to know where to punch at the moment, but they're getting off the deck and continuing to fight.

3. There are no bad teams in the Playoffs. The Baltimore Orioles nearly won the AL East. The Tigers did win the AL Central, and beat the AL West Champion Oakland Athletics in a tough 5-game series.

These are good teams, and they deserve some credit for the way they've driven the Yankees nuts. The Tigers did eliminate the Yankees from the Playoffs last year, and some of the players they've got are holdovers from the 2006 Tigers who did the same.

If the Yankees do somehow come from behind and win this Pennant, they'll have to face either the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, 5th seed though they were, or the NL West Champion and previous World Champion San Francisco Giants. Should we be shocked if either of them wins the World Series, completely shutting down the Yankees or Tigers? Certainly not.

4. As bad as things look for the Yankees right now, remember what Yogi Berra said: "It ain't over 'til it's over."

No Jeter. A-Rod not hitting. Robbie not hitting. Grandy not hitting. Swish not hitting. Good pitching performances by Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda getting wasted. (Not that kind of "getting wasted.") No Mariano Rivera to rely on, if we somehow get a lead and hold it into the 9th inning. Lost the 1st 2 games of this ALCS at home. And now we have to go to Detroit. And face Justin Verlander in Game 3.

But you know what? The Yankees have faced situations like this before, and won: 1996 World Series, 1998 ALCS, 2000 and 2001 ALDS. Even in the 2009 World Series, we lost Game 1 at home before taking 4 of the next 5.

Paul Sullivan, author of the blog Sully Baseball and a huge Red Sox fan, is really enjoying the Yankees' failure -- as if he wouldn't give a tooth to see the Sox failing in the Playoffs, because that would mean they made the Playoffs. Like Jim Mora Sr. would say, don't talk to him about playoffs, his team has to worry about just winning a game!

But Sully rightly points out that a comeback is incredibly unlikely, and cites the fact that the 2012 Yankees are not the 2004 Red Sox.

He's got a point. The Yankees can't count on their steroid cycles kicking in. The Yankees can't purposely throw at opponents and expect to get away with it every single time. And if this series does somehow get to a Game 6 at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter is not coming to bat with blood coming out of his ankle and through his sock.

To boo these Yankees in understandable. All that money, and, undeniably, they have spectacularly failed.

But maybe we need to accept the truth: These are not the 1927, 1936, 1941, 1949, 1961, 1977, 1996 or 2009 Yankees -- but remember, those teams all had something to prove, and until they did win the World Series, they hadn't proven it.

Every great Yankee has gotten booed. Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. Bill Dickey. Joe DiMaggio. Yogi Berra. Whitey Ford. Mickey Mantle. Roger Maris. Thurman Munson. Reggie Jackson. Dave Winfield. Yes, even Jeter. Even Mariano, mainly early in his career, but it happened. Especially A-Rod.

It seems that the only great Yankee who didn't get booed was Don Mattingly -- even though he pulled off the unique feat of playing 14 seasons in a Yankee uniform and never winning a postseason series.

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