The e-mail from Grantland Editor in Chief Bill Simmons came Wednesday at 3:53 p.m. "Shane- meet my friend JackO," it said. "I want you to exchange e-mails after Game 5. It will be funny."
Funny, sure, but funny for who? It felt like a setup from the word go. But what could we do? I checked with my editor, and she gave the okay. JackO and I, we're both Yankee fans, and they used it against us. What follows is four hours of frantic, illogical, desperate, and disjointed e-mailing. And I'm telling you, we never had a choice.
7:30 p.m., Shane:
I'm a bit confused as to what I should call you in these emails. I know Bill calls you JackO, but I wanted to wait for the green light from you on that one. John? Jack? Stick with Mr. O'Connell? Mr. October? Steinbrenner?
We're about 35 minutes away from game time. I'm nervous as a subway rat, and I have five questions for you:
1. Bill wanted us, complete strangers with only our Yankee fandom in common, to email back and forth during tonight's Game 5 against Detroit. Do you think he had the interest of Grantland at heart, or do you think he secretly hopes the Yankees lose and he can read a chronicle of our mutual pain tomorrow morning? You know him better than I do, so I thought I'd leave this one to you.
2. Do you have any playoff game-day superstitions? I've been wearing my Robbie Cano #24 T-shirt all day, but that's as far as I go. I'm thinking I should have done more.
3. Will you be drinking this evening? I had two lovely Full Steam lagers with some friends about an hour ago, and I think I'm done for the night. But on the other hand, my fridge is empty and I'm thinking I might regret that if a disaster happens.
5. Over/Under on the combined hits this evening of Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, A-Rod, and Cano?
7:56 p.m., JackO:
Please, there's no need for formality, I'm a man of the people — Sir or Your Eminence will be fine, Sean...err Shane.
1. There is no doubt that Bill wants to read a chronicle of our collective devastation, much like I savored his running diary of the Red Sox collapse like a fine wine. When one's team has collapsed like the Hindenburg (too soon?) the only enjoyment left is to wallow in the potential misery of your most hated rival. Let's hope the Yanks come through for us so that Bill continues to weep quietly in the fetal position in his Carl Crawford jersey.
2. I'm EXTREMELY superstitious. I still blame myself for changing my "Boston Sucks" T-shirt before Game 4 in 2004. Accordingly, I'm wearing the same faded Yankees shirt that I wore on Monday for Game 4 even though it's stained with my daughter's baby formula (it's my personal tribute to the parenting skills of Mark Teixeira).
3. I stopped at the package store on the way home — it's important to be prepared for any eventuality. I'm two beers in and if things go south, I'll be drinking like Jon Lester on an off day.
4. I feel good about Nova which makes me very, very nervous. I'm pessimistic by nature and I find that the worse I feel about the Yanks' chances — the better they do. I am pessimistic about Teixeira, A-Rod and Swisher coming through in the clutch though, so maybe I am pessimistic — which is good...? Playoff baseball is soooo confusing. I think I'll crack open another beer.
5. See my answer to #4, but if I have to put a number on it — I'll say 2, both by Cano.
8:09 p.m., Shane:
I'm on the same exact page about Nova. I have no idea why I'm feeling so calm about a rookie. I guess it's partly his second-half success, and partly his Game 2 performance, but my native pessimism should really be winning out right now.
I followed your example and bought a six-pack of Carlsberg just in case. Also, "package store?" Sounds like you might be embedded in Red Sox territory. Which reminds me of 2001, when somehow my entire dorm was occupied by Red Sox fans. That's where I watched Game 7, when Luis Gonzalez worked his black magic on Baseball Jesus. I can still hear the cheers, and I can still see my friend look in my door as he was running down the hall, point, and continue running. If he had come into the room, I might have killed him. Did your friendship with Bill ever go through hard times around 2003 and 2004? Do you have special rules on how you interact when things get tense?
First pitch about to be thrown. I think I'll go vomit.
As a pessimistic person, I imagine you might share my tendency to get a little big angry during tense games. I'm not above screaming at the television or throwing non-breakable objects. Which player makes you angriest? It's Teixeira all the way for me.
8:27 p.m., JackO:
Unfortunately by the time I received this, things took a decided turn for the worse. Don Kelly, whose name sounds like he should be the bartender of someplace called "The Blarney Stone," and the newly christened Yankee-killer Delmon Young went back-to-back. Troubling. Where's that bottle opener?
Simmons and I always maintained a respectful silence with each other during big series- kind of like The US and USSR during the Cold War. I remember watching the 1999 ALCS with him and a long, silent car ride after the Yanks beat the Sox. I was gracious in defeat in 2004 however. After 86 years of the Yanks kicking the Sox' ass I felt it was the least I could do.
Oh, I'm definitely a yeller and thrower of objects and I'm not as discerning as you — I don't care if the object is breakable or unbreakable. I've amassed numerous remotes through the years covered in duct tape after impacts with many and various walls. After this first inning, my wife wisely moved our remote farther from me. Teixeira does it for me too — his repeated oh-fers in big situations and seeming nonchalance just drive me crazy.
How about the stat shared in the pregame that the Yankees haven't had a starter win an elimination game since 1962 and that they've never ever won one at home? My God. I may graduate from Lester on an off day to Lackey. Is it possible to slur words in an e-mail?
8:41 p.m., Shane:
Believe me, it is most definitely possible to slur words in an e-mail. Just ask any girl I dated or wanted to date in college.
Nova just got out of the second inning after giving up a lead-off double to Magglio Ordonez. I'm going to keep the quickish responses coming, but don't feel obliged to follow. I just have the sick feeling that I'll feel less like writing as the night goes on. Quick thoughts:
- I'm disgusted by the fact that I have to share my misery with that f***ing guacamole commercial. "You, back to the store! You're outta here!" I can't believe they brought that one back from last year. Did the ad agency feel like they'd really nailed it the first time, and there was no need to come up with anything new?
- Ron Darling was just so adamant about how difficult Game 7s were that I decided to look up his record. He pitched two Game 7s for the Mets. The second one was in the 1988 NLDS against the Dodgers. He gave up 6 runs in a single inning and was yanked. The Mets lost 6-0. The first one? Somehow, I didn't know it was the infamous 1986 World Series Game 7 against Boston. Darling gave up 6 hits and 3 runs in 3.2 innings. Obviously, the Mets won.
- I just called my stepfather, a HUGE Yankee fan, and he's eating dinner in a restaurant and not watching the game. To be fair, he and my mom are on an expedition to Bar Harbor, Maine, but still, what the hell? I imagine he'll be in front of a TV shortly, but I'm a little stunned.
Holy hell, Mark Teixeira just hit a ground rule double. I told you not to doubt him!
On Carlsberg #2, drink #4. Also, is it me, or does Nova actually look ... pretty solid? Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but other than the home runs and the double and ... No, I'm just an idiot. Carry on.
Posada strikes out, stranding Teixeira. End of 2, 2-0 Detroit.
9:03 p.m., JackO:
I think I missed the guacamole commercial because I was so disgusted by the Uncle Fester lookalike on his cell phone waving emphatically in the background during Posada's last at-bat. Hey, buddy, you have great seats at a nationally televised sporting event, you shouldn't be that shocked or excited that you're on TV. The director must HATE those people because it distracts from the close-ups showing the tension and drama on players' faces. If Bud Selig were more like David Stern, that guy would be removed with extreme prejudice.
I agree that Nova was pitching well, which is why I was even more confused to see Phil Hughes come in. Total panic move by Girardi! I hate it (please ignore this if Hughes pitches great and gets the win).
Has there ever been a worse baserunner with blazing speed than Brett Gardner? God, he frustrates me. I think that's my second use of "God." Apparently, it's true — in times of crisis, one turns to God and alcohol ... not necessarily in that order.
9:19 p.m., Shane:
I hated the panic Hughes move too, but I have to say, I loved the way he looked in the third. Speaking of which, I was hoping for a chance to link this picture, which I believe came from the hilarious Yankee blog NoMaas. And that chance has arrived.
I missed Fester, thank God. I like to think I'd never pull those antics if I had great seats. But I think it's a little bit like war — you never know you'll react until it happens. I once went to a Yankee game on Cinco de Mayo, and held up a sign that said "CinKo de Wang-o." Chien-Ming Wang was pitching, and he took a perfect game into the 8th against Seattle. They didn't show us on TV.
By the way, did you like how Hughes threw strikes two and three to Delmon Young last inning, both of which were called balls, before Young hit one off the wall? I just got a text from my friend Erik saying, "This ump is a blind tool." His strike zone has been erratic, but he's nowhere near Jerry Meals in Game 3. And here's where I'd like some confirmation of a pretty strong conviction: if the Yanks go on to lose this game, I will place this series loss on Meals. That's only slight hyperbole. I'm dead set on the idea that he completely screwed CC in Game 3, leading to a high pitch count and more runs than he would have conceded otherwise in a 5-4 loss. I don't remember ever being more enraged after a game.
ANOTHER pitching change by Girardi. He's on full tilt. Boone Logan in, and I can't imagine why. Hughes looked fine. And Logan gives up a hit to Ayala. WHY THE HELL IS BOONE LOGAN IN THIS GAME RIGHT NOW????? Also, do you think this means CC later?
As for Gardner, the guy steals bases at a 79 percent rate, yet somehow he's afraid to go against Fister, a righty. This is not how you make up a lead in a win-or-go-home game.
Logan out of the fourth! I told you not to doubt Joe.
9:22 p.m., JackO:
Things I would never do even though I'm a huge Yankees fan: 1. Wear Spike Lee's hat with the years of Yankees World Series victories all mashed together. I don't like to buy Yankees items that will hopefully be obsolete in a few weeks, but then again, I don't get residuals from "Do the Right Thing" so Spike's hat budget is probably a little bigger than mine and 2. make a sign that says "Hughes The Man" and bring it to the game with me. I might make a sign that said "Hughes Your Daddy?" but ... Wait, no actually I wouldn't do that either.
And with that Girardi takes out Hughes and bring in Boone Logan. Please someone, take his binder away from him (please ignore this part if this strategy works out). I don't know if you have any medical training, but what's an ulcer feel like?
9:42 p.m., Shane:
Brett Gardner just flew out with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the fourth, and it's still 2-0 Detroit.
That inning, absolutely devastating at-bat by Russell Martin. With the bases juiced and one out, he flew out to first, and that's the biggest missed opportunity of the game so far.
Spike's hat is a monstrosity, but seeing Jay-Z reminded me of something. Didn't it seem like "Empire State of Mind" made 2009 seem like a year of destiny? Somehow, that song was the spirit of the team. Derek Jeter used it as his at-bat music, they played it live before a World Series game, and IT WAS THE MAIN REASON WE WON THE SERIES.
I barely know what I'm talking about right now. However, I need to tell you: Doug Fister looks just like my friend Nick, who had his first article published in Popular Mechanics today. Terrible omen.
And even though these are troubled times, let's not forget that Jorge just put together yet another incredible at-bat that inning. And now: CC!
9:44 p.m., JackO:
Apparently CC warming in the bullpen didn't inspire the offense like Darling or Smoltz suggested it would. I fear that we'll be remembering those pop-ups by Martin and Gardener all through the winter.
I don't like bringing in CC right here (I wrote that before Austin Jackson led off with a double — I swear).
9:52 p.m., Shane:
Victor Martinez gets the two-out RBI single, and this is starting to feel like the beginning of the end, isn't it?
9:57 p.m., JackO:
You're filled with bad omens — your stepfather not watching, "Doug Fister" appearing in Popular Mechanics, and no symbolic anthem this year. Now I'm bummed. Any chance we could get word to Jay-Z? He might be able to write and record a song in the final four innings. He better hurry though — it's now 3-0. Fitting that Austin Jackson scored while Granderson was bobbling the ball — it will give sportscasters an easy meme to mention how they were traded for each other when doing the replays.
10:06 p.m., Shane:
Thank God for Robinson Cano. That looked like it was about to be a depressingly quick inning for Fister. Instead, a bomb from Cano makes it 3-1 after 5.
Let me put this out there to the universe: the perfect ending to this series would be for Valverde to blow a save. After his guarantee, that's the best-case scenario.
Good news on the bad omen front: stepfather is now watching the game. Still no anthem though, and nothing to be done about Popular Mechanics.
10:16 p.m., JackO:
If the Yankees had nine Cano's, they would have already won this series. How is science doing with cloning humans? Any hope for next year?
Your scenario would be a dream ending. I would love to see Valverde be the goat. I realize that there's an anti-Yankee bias but when Joba pumps his fist, we have a national debate about it for several weeks, but when Valverde does an imitation of the Thriller video on the mound after a save complete with pulling his jersey out, America reacts like it's watching a video of kittens on the Internet — "Oh isn't he cute?" I tell you, it's hard to be a Yankee fan.
10:26 p.m., Shane:
In the category of things that make it hard to be a Yankee fan, I would add the severe depression experienced by any national announcer when the Yankees do well, and the manic elation when they fail. They don't even try to disguise it anymore.
Teixeira drives one to the warning track in deep center, Swisher grounds out, but Jorge singles. Let's see if Russell can make up for his killer pop-out in the fourth...
Nope. Instead, he takes the ugliest swing of the year. If Montero doesn't pinch hit for Martin next time around, something's wrong. This game is like watching a sunset. The ending feels inevitable.
10:38 p.m., JackO:
Sorry for my slow response, I was working on Jay-Z's game-winning rap. There's a lot of words that rhyme with Cano: show, know, though, C'mon HOVA, there's stuff to work with there!
We still have hope — Phil Coke may yet become involved in this game.
I know that fans get excited and they can be forgiven, but when Tex works the count full, they shouldn't cheer quite so loudly — I think it makes him nervous.
10:49 p.m., Shane:
As Scherzer leaves the game with Jeter on first, I'd like to take this moment to point out that the run differential in this series is +10 to the Yankees.
Girardi just made Benoit, the new reliever, take a bandage off his face. Classic head games from Joe. Bandage-gate might turn this series around!
10:50 p.m., JackO:
Could the removal of the Band-Aid be like Joba and the midges a few years ago???
10:54 p.m., Shane:
THE BANDAGES, JOHN, IT'S THE BANDAGES! BASES LOADED, 1 OUT, A-ROD UP!!!!!!
10:55 p.m., JackO:
The bad news for Benoit is that he had to take the bandage off, the good news is that thing on his face is going to get him an endorsement deal with Clearasil.
If this goes right, Girardi will be signing Band-Aids at card show for years!
11:00 p.m., Shane:
Unbelievable. Strike out for A-Rod. Teixeira up next, and I think we know what to expect there.
It occurs to me now that Simmons' dark plan is coming to fruition. We're playing right into his hands. This is like in the Movie Se7en when Brad Pitt can't help but shoot the guy at the end. We're pawns.
11:03 p.m., JackO:
Too true. Too true. Damn him!
11:06 p.m., JackO (after Teixeira gets an RBI walk and Swisher strikes out to end the inning):
Swisher's going to have a lot fewer movie roles and cameos when he goes to play in Cincinnati next year.
11:08 p.m., Shane:
I don't understand what happens to him. He's such a selective, careful hitter in the regular season, and then the playoffs come and he flails at any diving curve a foot out of the zone.
That being said, Teixeira picks up a HUGE walk, and now it's 3-2 going into the eighth. Again, I will put this out to the universe: a walk-off win against Jose Valverde would be the best possible outcome. We're one step closer. Please hold the fort, David Robertson.
Also, I like to imagine you sent that last email from your phone because you couldn't stop pacing long enough to sit in front of a computer. That's about where I'm at right now.
11:14 p.m., JackO:
Exactly. I'm working the laptop and the phone depending on the situation.
11:18 p.m., Shane:
For what it's worth, I don't buy TBS' "turning point of the game" when A-Rod didn't try to score on Posada's hit in the fourth. I think it was a great call by [third base coach Rob] Thomson. A-Rod would have been toast at the plate.
11:26 p.m., JackO:
Totally agree with you. Hes got a bad knee, he would have been toast.
11:27 p.m., Shane (after Gardner's 8th-inning base hit):
Brett Gardner has been fantastic all series. Hats off. He must steal here. MUST. With 2 outs, getting caught is no big deal.
11:29 p.m., JackO (after Jeter's deep, deep fly-out ends the 8th):
Where was Jeffrey Maier when we needed him?
11:31 p.m., Shane:
We were *that* close to being 3 Mariano outs away from the ALCS.
Okay, here we are. Top of the ninth, trailing 3-2. Mariano needs to hold them, and then the offense needs to score at least one against Jose "This series will not go back to New York" Valverde.
In your heart of hearts, do you believe it'll happen? Or are we doomed to 6 months of the what-if game?
11:33 p.m., JackO:
I've got a funny feeling that the Yanks come back right here.
...Of course that funny feeling could just be my new ulcer.
11:35 p.m., Shane:
Ditto. I'm inspired by Mariano treating the Tigers like Little Leaguers. Here we go. Score or die. Baseball is wonderful.
11:42 p.m., Shane:
Fuck. The world is a cauldron of suffering. Go Brewers.
11:43 p.m., JackO:
Ugh. Baseball is awful. Hey, the Yanks made it interesting. Got the guys up that they wanted and couldn't come through. That's baseball. See you next season everybody. Does anyone know an ulcer specialist in CT?
Read more of The Triangle, Grantland's sports blog.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org