In case you were busy finally piecing together why the Buffalo Bills' mascot is a Buffalo, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
In a battle of reigning Cy Young winners, David Price's Rays upended R.A. Dickey's Blue Jays, 5-4, in 10 innings. The Blue Jays, preseason favorites in the hypercompetitive AL East, now sit at the bottom of the division with the second-worst run differential in baseball. Meanwhile, something deep stirs within Cito Gaston, and he rises to dust off the ol' Blue Phone, the one wired straight to the Rogers Centre, awaiting a call that he knows is coming soon.
The Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild with a comfortable 5-1 win as they won their first playoff series since the Stanley Cup finals in 2010. "I guess fives are Wild," said Marian Hossa, who had two goals for the Blackhawks, after the game. When met with silence, Hossa explained, "In my native Slovakia, we have a game called poker in which sometimes, in smaller less serious games, some cards are deemed wild and can be used in a number of different hands. One might say 'Fives are wild' in Slovakia, meaning they can replace threes or fours or any other card. I was referencing that situation, and also the fact that we were playing the Wild and we scored five goals, which is wild." Hossa then furrowed his brow and promised to stop trying to make references that Americans cannot understand.
Sportswriters love telling people how unbiased sportswriters are, and a big part of that is rooting for stories, not individual teams. That’s pretty obvious. It’s much easier and much more fun to write about an unusual defensive play, or a no-hitter, or a walk-off hit, than it is to write about an arduous 12-5 yawner that stopped being close after the third inning.
And it’s not just writers who do this. Even without the professional self-interest, fans want to see the underdog overachieve. They want to see the unusual, the exciting, and they want the drama and uncertainty to last as long as possible.
So in the spirit of lasting drama, everyone ought to be rooting as hard as they can against the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are kind of old news, with two consecutive division titles in their pockets. They rely heavily on slow guys who walk and hit home runs (and if you’re going to do that, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are two pretty good slow guys to have), and they’ve got a starting rotation that might be better than all the other rotations in the division. To balance those strengths come two glaring weaknesses. First, the bullpen has been quite good so far this year but is built on a foundation of quicksand. Second, they have the kind of defense one might expect when a lineup has a lot of slow guys who walk and hit home runs.
Now, none of this makes the Tigers particularly objectionable. The reason you should root against them is that they’re by far the best team in baseball’s worst division, and they’re starting to pull away in the standings.
The baseball season is a long and lonely road. To preserve his sanity, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter keeps a diary. These are excerpts from The Captain's private journal.
Wednesday, October 3: vs. Boston Red Sox
If you're not careful, it's easy to let yourself start believing narratives. The Orioles are a Team of Destiny. The Yankees are a dedicated bunch of experienced, professional, fairly compensated superstars who are "too dependent on the home run" and occasionally have some difficulty getting the "big hit with runners in scoring position." The Red Sox "tanked their entire year, which involved hiring the worst possible fit for a manager and trading away virtually every big name on the roster, just to have the opportunity to hold the Yankees' fate in their hands on the last day of the season and exact revenge for Tampa's impossible comeback in Game 162." You hear these things over and over again as September bleeds into October, repeated by every media member, fan, and suggestible player who spends too much time reading sports blogs. And pretty soon, everyone comes to believe these stories by sheer repetition, especially that last one, which Mark Teixeira wouldn't shut up about for weeks. You guess a guy starts to get paranoid when a calf strain puts him on the bench for the most important games of his career.
The playoffs are finally here, and I'm thrilled to announce on behalf of pessimistic, ungrateful Yankees fans everywhere that three players have earned their way onto the annual postseason choke alert list. The choke alert serves not only to lower our collective expectations, but also to let us know when we should be at our most cynical. As usual, players are evaluated on their postseason performance with the Yankees alone, with no consideration given to past results in far-flung corners of the country.
There were also three players on last year's list, but there has been one change in personnel. After two straight seasons of top-notch postseason production and a scorching end to the 2012 regular season, we're sorry to be losing our good friend Robinson Cano. Robbie, you still have a .258 career postseason average and an abysmal 5.6 percent walk rate, but recent results have exonerated you completely. You are now skewing toward the clutch end of the spectrum, and while we hate to see you go, we recognize that it's a positive development both personally and professionally. Replacing Robbie on our list is the no. 3 choking suspect for 2012. Ladies and gentlemen, back after a two-year hiatus, please welcome Alex Rodriguez.
With playoff baseball officially underway, the time has come for Yankee fans everywhere to accuse their players of choking in the clutch. Let's call it the A-Rod Phenomenon, since he was the poster boy for our ire prior to his breakout performance in 2009. This year, I'd like to be at the vanguard of the movement. With that in mind, here are three Yankees with shady pasts and a lot to prove in the 2011 postseason campaign.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Monday. Special "in related news" edition!
Roger Federer tied Andre Agassi for second on the all-time Grand Slams wins list with a first round victory at the U.S. Open. In related news, USTA officials detained Agassi before the match as he made his way to Federer's court with a wheelbarrow full of banana peels.
It is really, really hard to support the New York Yankees.
Laugh all you want. The fact of the matter is we haven't won a World Series since 2009. By my calculations, it's been exactly 643 days since Shane Victorino grounded out to Robinson Cano in Game 6, triggering celebrations across New York. To put that in perspective, Gandhi's longest hunger strike was only 21 days. By that measure, Yankee fandom is 30 times worse than being oppressed by the British. And counting.