Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thanks George

Thanks, George Steinbrenner. Thank you for deciding to keep Alex Rodriguez and to not fire Joe Torre.

It’s not that I’m a grateful Yankee fan. Far from it. In fact, I hate the Yankees.

From as early as I can remember, I detested the Bronx Bombers. As a young kid growing up in northern New York almost fifty years ago, I preferred to strain to hear a weak radio signal from Baltimore with Chuck Thompson reporting the exploits of my favored Orioles than to dial into any one of a dozen nearby stations carrying the hated Yanks.

It seemed then, as now, that the world was divided into two camps: those who loved the Yankees and those who loathed them. I was a card-carrying member of that latter camp.

Like most Yankee haters, I suffered year after year with the only relief being the occasional season that the pinstriped crew failed to make it to the World Series. So it came as a surprise to me when I felt a sense of relief when Mr. Steinbrenner didn’t lower the ax on Messrs. Rodriguez and Torre. Strange as it seemed, I was glad to see the Yankee team left intact.

‘What’s happening here’ I thought. ‘Why would I wish good things on the evilest franchise in the universe?’

Then it struck me. How could I hate the Yankees if they stunk? What good would it do me to watch them become a second-rate team? I needed the Yankees to be successful almost as much as I needed to hate them. Just not too successful.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great fun to watch the underdog Tigers whip the Yankees in four games. Watching the modern Murderer’s Row flailing away at Detroit pitchers was a delicious treat.

But somehow it lacked the satisfaction of a Yankees loss in the League Championship Series or, better yet, a defeat in the World Series. The higher they soared before being shot down, the greater my pleasure.

That’s why I want to see this year’s Yankee lineup retained. No doubt, they’re great. But so far, thankfully, they’re not great enough to win it all.

When I look back, the last five years has been one of the most satisfying periods in baseball for me. The hated Yankees have made it into the World Series twice and both times they lost. And even when they didn’t make it into the Series, they provided exquisite delights such as their complete collapse against the Red Sox two years ago.

What would appear to be incredible success to any other franchise is currently viewed as a crisis by Yankee fans. Any other team with 26 championships, four in the last ten years and perennial division winners would rejoice in such accomplishments.

But for the followers of the pin-striped ones, those achievements are nothing. There has been no World Series victory since 2000. In Yankeeland, that’s not just a drought, it’s a true catastrophe.

I suspect that Yankee fans would sooner suffer another ten-year period of mediocrity than to go on like this. Coming close every year and then losing must be pure agony for these folks. At least that’s what I dearly hope.

So when George Steinbrenner says "Let’s stay the course", I couldn’t be happier. Here’s hoping he continues to achieve that fine balance that leads the Yankees on to another divisional title, dare I say it, another League Championship. For my sweetest dream is to see the hated ones make it into the World Series next year. I wouldn’t even mind that much if they won a game or two or even three. So long as they lose it all on a wild pitch in the bottom of the thirteenth inning in Game seven. Or am I asking for too much?

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