It's really hard to be a Yankees fan. Nobody else understands.
Hey, I'm kidding. I'm not going to start off that way. I just have this weird thing where I like watching people get mad. Sorry about that. And if I'm being honest, the worldwide cyclone of hatred for the Yankees brand is heavy on my mind right now, and it's making me a bit insecure. In a second, I'm going to talk about this thing they're going through, this awful 43-game nightmare that dates back to July 18 and has seen their AL East lead dwindle from 10 games to one. I'll kvetch about curses and injuries and the hazards of having a team full of old people. You'll hate me, because I'm whining about the juggernaut franchise with the most championships in American professional sports history. And that's fair. I don't want sympathy. I just want to shout out to the blackness for a second. Before that, though, let's talk about baseball collapses in a more general way.
When Mariano Rivera tore his ACL shagging flies last night in Kansas City, you knew two things would happen: Yankee fans would freak out, and we'd pry my buddy JackO (a die-hard Yankee fan) away from the ledge for an emergency B.S. Report podcast. We also grabbed Grantland's Jonah Keri to discuss the implications of Rivera's injury on the AL pennant race and give us a snapshot of both leagues heading into the first weekend of May.
Science still hasn't developed a way to stab someone over e-mail, so last Sunday, Bill Simmons did the next best thing: "I'd like to get the band back together," he wrote, and I felt an immediate, sharp pain in my gut.
"The band" was me and his friend JackO. We're both Yankees fans, and Simmons wanted us to send some e-mails back and forth previewing the season. The last time we did this was during Game 5 of the ALDS, when the Yankees' season ended in a loss to Detroit. The result should have given Simmons all the schadenfreude he needed for the next decade or so, but now he wants us to do it again. The jinx potential is very high here, but now the stakes are an entire season rather than a single game. I couldn't say no, but my sentiments basically lined up with JackO, who had the best possible response: "I'm available, but if something bad happens to a key Yankee, then I'm taking you trampolining, Simmons."
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports over the weekend.
Phil Mickelson out-dueled Tiger Woods by 11 shots in the final round to win the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. At the press conference, an angry Woods said that the only reason Mickelson beat him is that he was able to stabilize his putter by nestling it between his ample breasts.
The Yankees are in trade talks with the Pirates that may involve sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. It turns out the Yankees are on the lookout for a DH and a few young prospects, while the Pirates need someone who can belch redneck anthems and get arrested for cooking meth in a motel bathtub.
One of the sickest qualities human beings possess is the twisted love we have for gossip. We go about our days like normal people, then as soon as we hear about some juicy scandal on TV or internet we turn into our mothers at the check-out line in the grocery store relishing in the latest ridiculous town scandal. I hate that I'm guilty of doing this. I hate how I want to know who screwed whom. I hate that I care who is closeted or who tucks their penis and balls between their legs and only answers to the name 'Lady Giraffe Pussy' between the hours of 8:00pm-9:45pm (okay, I've never heard of anyone doing the last one, but oh how I wish it were true of someone).
If baseball were a novel and I had to write one of the characters, I’d have a field day with the Yankees’ current roster alone. Alex Rodriguez could carry a book all by himself. He’s physically magnificent and extravagantly, superhumanly talented — and extravagantly, superhumanly rich — and his life seems to be an ongoing mess. On one level he’s all tabloid all the time, but on another he’d fit a deep, psychological study about pressure and the fragility of personality and performance. So would I pick him? No. He’s the face of the modern game, but his story is essentially very old-fashioned. On reflection I’d leave him to a Fitzgerald clone to write.
Or there’s the gift any bench gives you — the bit player enjoying a couple of unlikely seasons in the sun. Brett Gardner, maybe. Left fielder, speedy base stealer, pesky leadoff hitter, average in most ways, but he’s enjoying a run of luck right now. The little runt is having the time of his life. But that’s a book about chance and pluck, and a hundred people could write it better than me.
Boy, I am happy to have two professional sports in full swing again. On today's BS Report, we called in the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi to discuss what we learned from last night's entertaining Saints-Packers game — not just about those two teams, but if there were any post-lockout patterns from that game that might be applied to the rest of the Week 1 matchups. (The answer, in case you're wondering: Yes.) We also discussed Peyton Manning's injury, its ramifications on the Colts and the AFC South, whether the Colts should just shut him down and whether they will be the league's worst team. From there, I called my buddy JackO (a die-hard Yankees fan) and discussed the remote chance that the Red Sox are about to commit the single biggest September choke in modern baseball history, the AL MVP race and the question, "Who's the most overrated guy on the Yankees and Red Sox?" From there, I pooped in my pants and hung up after realizing that John Lackey, Andrew Miller, Tim Wakefield and some dude named "Weiland" are all starting huge games for the Red Sox within the next week.
No surprises here: As of this morning, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox have the two best records in the American League. Boston is up a game and a half, and the teams meet for a three-game series at Fenway starting Tuesday night. The standings will only heighten the usual drama, which typically includes four-hour games, disturbing sentiments expressed by drunken fans, and any number of batters exposing their spines to a fastball.
For Boston and New York, shared domination is nothing new. They're the only two clubs to win more than one World Series title in the new millenium. Playoff berths have almost been a formality — since 2003, there have been eight AL East winners, and eight AL Wild Card winners. The Yankees or Red Sox have occupied 13 of these 16 positions. Tampa Bay spoiled the fun in 2008 and 2010, and Detroit managed to nab a wild card in 2006, but otherwise the duopoly has gone unchallenged.
Put simply, these teams are superpowers. The numbers back it up: the Yanks and Sox are the two most valuable franchises in baseball, they earn the most revenue, and they're first and third, respectively, in payroll.
And if there's one truth we know about superpowers, it's that one must be good, and one must be evil. Anything more nuanced is too ambiguous and uncomfortable to consider. Every yin has a yang. Just look at the two major superpower clashes of the past 100-plus years: U.S.-Germany and U.S.-Soviet Union.
Those are the only two, unless other places in the world have history (seems unlikely — I never hear about them). In every case, there was a clear villain. Hitler. The infuriating Olga Korbut. And there was a clear hero. Brad Pitt. Senator Joseph McCarthy. Sure, some people might say there were geopolitical subtleties that make such sweeping generalizations impossible, but those people have suspicious habits, like recycling plastic and not attending oil spill parties.
The premise stands. But with the Yankees and Red Sox, the roles are less obvious. Both teams play in America. Both teams spend a lot of money to the detriment of "third world" teams. So who's good? Who's evil?
Let's take 10 categories and assign one "evil point" to the loser of each. The first five categories will take a broad look at the cities themselves, and the last five will be baseball-related. When the final numbers are tallied, this great conundrum will be resolved, and we'll all know who deserves our allegiance.
On Thursday night, the New York Yankees set a record with three grand slams in a single game. The magical evening brought the grand slam back into the forefront of the national discourse, and today it's barely an overstatement to call it the most significant part of human society. In honor of the brave new grand slam world, here's a list of the 10 greatest grand slams since the beginning of time.
It had been an ugly season for Jorge Posada. Once a key cog in the Yankees dynasty, a winner of five rings and one of the greatest offensive catchers of all time, he'd lost his job behind the plate, been relegated to platoon duty, and was putting up the worst numbers of his career.
Last week, though, he had a shot at redemption. Posada was up to bat in the ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs, 1-2 count, down a run and facing Royals closer Joakim Soria. Sure, one at-bat wasn't going to make up for a season in which he'd performed below replacement level, the modern version of undercutting the Mendoza Line. But a base hit here might, if nothing else, change the perception that Posada was hurting the Yankees every day he remained in the lineup.