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Post Season Post

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It’s been months since I’ve written a word about baseball. Between working a temp job, and the home teams—SF Giants and Oakland A’s—hardly worth watching after early collapse, and with local TV showing fewer New York games than usual, I’ve been disconnected from the game. Now here it is, the last day of the season: the whole thing whizzed right by me. I hate when that happens.

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The Giants and A’s were both big disappointments this season. Barry Bonds generated some excitement, not to mention controversy, for the Giants, but it was, as usual, All About Barry. San Francisco finally decided not to renew his contract, something they probably should’ve done a year ago. If my take on the Giants’ situation is correct, then they’ll be able to build and sustain a better team next year with the money they save and the distraction gone. Meanwhile, Bonds says he’s not leaving baseball yet—the big lug wants to break a few more records. The question of which team will want him is intriguing—the trouble Bonds brings to a ball club outweighs his assets.

On my side of the bridge, players are dropping like flies. As my pal Steve Bjerklie says, the A’s 60-day disabled list– Chavez, Kotsay, Harden, Crosby, Duchscherer–could form the basis for an impressive team itself. Steve, now living in New England, saw the A’s play for the first time in awhile when they faced the Red Sox a week or two ago, and he e-mailed that it was a painful experience. “What the hell happened to Oakland’s pitching?” he asked. “Good lord, Chad Gaudin walked four batters in a row Tuesday night; that’s Little League play. And Blanton wasn’t much better last night, giving up 11 hits and three walks. Plus: Hannahan, Suzuki, Murphy, Barton — who are these guys?”

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Indeed, who are these guys? Ya got me. This is what I’ve always complained about with Billy Beane and his statistical/scientific approach to building a team, as described in the book Moneyball. If you blink too long, you’re liable to miss significant team overhaul—my favorite players are always disappearing in the middle of the night. (See my earlier post, The Drama Queen of Sports). I find it impossible to root for a team of strangers, so I’m unable to develop any lasting loyalty to the A’s. Throw in the lousy season they just lumbered through, and my interest fades to zero.

matsuiduncan-celebrate.jpgWhich brings me to the boys from the Bronx, where I was born. They’re the biggest story in MLB this year: early on they crashed and burned so badly that pundits counted them out…and then they came back with a vengeance. The struggle waged between those two points was considerable, involving brains as well as brawn—moving a few rookies front and center, developing a rookie pitcher, getting Roger Clemens back. Many jokes were bandied about and the Yankees were called delusional for believing that one pitcher taking the mound every five days was going to save them—but as a matter of fact, it happened. It happened not because of Roger’s pitching, but because he brings an energy and attitude that’s as powerful as his right arm. Charisma works in mysterious ways; as Hamlet put it, There is more to heaven and earth…than is dreamt of in your philosophy. And so the Yankees head into the post season, not as first in their division, but as the AL wild card race winners. They’ll be duking it out with the Red Sox…just the way we like it.

That leaves the Mets–talk about Shakespearean tragedy! After charging through the season like running bulls, they imploded just as they were about to reach the end. Time was when the Mets were famous for lagging behind until the last minute and then, like a failing kid cramming to ace the final exam, they’d make a mighty surge and rock major league baseball. This year, they’re doing the reverse, and it’s left a lot of loyal fans—such as my son—feeling completely fucked over. As I write this, the Mets and Phillies are tied for first place in the Eastern Division of the National League. Both teams will play (not with each other) beginning at ten o’clock. Should both win, there’ll be a tie-breaker played tomorrow. Mets fans are biting their bones, or at least their nails. I’m hoping they make it, for the sake of my son’s mental health. (For a truly great story on Mets fans and their self-appointed poet spokesman, read this New York Times story).

Update: As we know, the Mets finalized their collapse yesterday. I don’t know how their fans can forgive them for what they did this season…and yet I know one who already has. I’m just glad I’m sensible enough to be a Yankee fan.

“It {baseball} breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
–One-time Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti
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