"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

It’s the Twins

In my head the baseball season is divided into three distinct parts.  The first, of course, begins on Opening Day, a red-letter day on my calendar.  (Incidentally, I can’t be bothered with spring training.  I know that sounds like blasphemy, but with teams wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms, players with wide-receiver numbers, and pitchers jogging around the warning track while a game is being played, it just doesn’t feel like baseball to me.  Sue me.)  Those first few weeks of the regular season are like gold, but not for the reasons you think.  I’m a Yankee fan, you know, so it’s been sixteen years since I needed the false hope that Kansas City fans cling to in April.  For me, those games are a reunion with old friends.  “Look, there’s Nick Swisher!  And hey, Robinson’s swing looks just as quick as it was last year.  Wait a minute, can Derek Jeter possibly have — gulp! — grey hair?”  Even Michael Kay’s voice, absent from my living room for six months, is welcomed back with a smile.

The second part of the season begins on a different date each year.  The day after the Yankees clinch their playoff spot, I take a break.  I have little need for what usually amounts to five or six games of makeshift lineups and anticlimactic results, and the freedom from the nightly pull of the game feels like a vacation.  Auditions for the 25th spot on the playoff roster remind me too much of spring training, and after living and dying through 158 games, I just don’t have the energy left to care about who Royce Ring is and whether or not he might make the postseason roster.  If I see him standing on the chalk on the first Wednesday of October, I’ll pay attention.  (I must admit, though, that I loved Joe Torre’s old tradition of allowing one of the elder Yankees to manage the final game.  Who can forget watching Clemens come to the mound to pull David Wells, or, as Emma reminded us, Bernie Williams sending himself to the plate for a pinch hit double.  Good times…)

The third part begins today, and it’s the only part that really matters.  You sweat and bleed with the team for 162 games spread over six months, and suddenly five games in seven days will determine the value of the season.  The Yankees will match up against the Twins in the first round of the playoffs, and I can’t even pretend to be concerned.  Sure, once I sit down in front of the TV there will be butterflies, and I’ll get nervous if Minnesota manages to jump out to an early lead, but right now I keep coming back to one thing — it’s the Twins.

We’re not supposed to say things like that.  Somehow the characters I string together here are suspected by the superstitious to have some affect on CC Sabathia’s fastball or Alex Rodríguez’s psyche.  If I predict victory, or worse yet, if I assume victory, I’m somehow casting some terrible jinx over the team.  Rubbish.  Jinxes are for little girls who say the same word at the same time and count to ten to silence their best friend.  There are no jinxes in baseball.

So here’s how things will go.  CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia, so let’s just write down Game 1 as a Yankee win and move on.  In Game 2 the Twins have the audacity to pitch Carl Pavano.  I can’t find a link to support this, but I’ve also heard that they’ve brought in Jeff Weaver to relieve in that game.  This is the Twins’ only hope.  Pavano throws eight solid innings, Weaver comes in for the save, and the entire island of Manhattan bursts into flames, taking the Bronx down with it.  But since I can’t see that fairy tale coming true, I’ll put my money on the Yanks in that game also.

When the series shifts to New York for Game 3, Phil Hughes will finally get a chance to erase any bad memories he might have of last October when he takes the mound in the potential clincher.  Like a lot of folks, I think it might’ve made more sense for Hughes to pitch in Minnesota, but Joe Girardi surely made that decision because he preferred Andy Pettitte over Hughes in a possible Game 5.  What Girardi doesn’t know, though, is that there will be no Game 5.  Hughes will cruise in Game 3.

Yankees win, the Yankees win.  Cue Sinatra.

Categories:  Hank Waddles  Playoffs  Series Preview  Yankees

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1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 6, 2010 9:35 am

I also like the Yankees outfield defense in that park. I can imagine Gardner and Granderson covering the gaps.

They're still the Twinkies til they beat us.

2 Yankee Mama   ~  Oct 6, 2010 9:35 am

The way the Yanks were playing down the stretch, I must admit that while I was watching the games, they were putting me in a crappy mood, so I detached. I even convinced myself that I no longer cared. Then I woke up this morning adrenalized as I realized that the posts-season starts this evening.

I said as much to my spouse who made an almost inaudible sound that was gruntish. Was he worried that my mood would be predicated on the state of the Yankees or is he anticipating my "reduced" parenting role while I prioritize fall baseball over my offspring? Either way, does this ever get old? Bring it on, dudes.

3 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 6, 2010 10:01 am

I woke up irritable this morning. Must be playoff time.

4 rbj   ~  Oct 6, 2010 10:23 am

I'm going to try and enjoy the playoffs. I'm worried that this might be it for a while for the Yankees. Jeter, A-Rod & Posada are all on the wrong side of 35, Mo's on the wrong side of 40, Pettitte is on the wrong side of 35 & no one knows if he'll be back. A.J. will be back.

And not only with the uncertainty of the roster, Boston will probably be better next year, Crawford-less Tampa will still have a good rotation, Toronto is a solid team, and Buck is going to have the Orioles be better. AL East could have all five teams be at least .500.

5 Just Fair   ~  Oct 6, 2010 10:28 am

[0] Nice thoughts. : ) Cheers.
Liriano is tough. The Yanks NEED to handle him the same way they did Pedro and Santana. Patience, patience, patience, and get him the hell gone by the 6th. Or knock him around early and often. I'm not picky.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:01 am

"The third part begins today, and it’s the only part that really matters."

I couldn't disagree with the above statement any more, but apparently, it seems to be a prevalent sentiment. Maybe I am just out of touch (or not in touch with other diversions), but I greatly enjoy every moment of the baseball season, from the pitchers and catchers reporting to the last out of the World Series. Although some segments of the season may matter more in terms of importance, I think they all matter equally in terms of the “fan experience”, which is why the Yankees approach this September left me a little uneasy.

As excited as I am for tonight's game, I can't really say it means more to me then when I was sitting at Steinbrenner Field earlier this Spring. Obviously, there is more pressure and a desire to see them win tonight, but ultimately, both days are a chance to interact with the game of baseball.

7 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:05 am

[4] Why will Boston be better? Papi and Drew are getting older. Vmart and Beltre could be gone. Pedroia has a major injury from which to recover. Papelbon might be on his way out. Beckett, Lackey and Dice-K will all be overpaid.

If the Yankees make one key move or two, I see no reason why can't maintain their status. With Swish, Gardner, Tex, Cano and Granderson, the Yanks have a core on the right side of 35, and Arod doesn't look like he is ready to fade just yet. Jeter and Posada are a concern, but with Montero waiting in the wings, the Yanks could be grooming another crop of young players to take their place.

It's too soon to look ahead, but one starter and one bat could be all the Yanks need to enter 2010 as favorites.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:11 am

[2] Perhaps he was worried about the ability of the Yanks to flip the switch into playoff mode, considering the advanced ages of several of the key players (particularly one Mariano Rivera who has been less utilized than in seasons past and whose vulnerability is starting to show) versus a team that is younger and primed to get over the hump. I don't think this is the cakewalk that Big Bank is making it out to be, but we'll see...

I mean, "errmph..."

[3] Check your bedsheets, it could end up being IBS (Irritable Burnett Syndrome)

Yeah, this could be it for a little while, but it could also be it for some other East teams; Kay insists that Tampa will be broken up because they can't afford to extend payroll, Boston is a crapshoot in itself and Toronto is what it is: a free-swinging team with so-so pitching except against the Yanks. Could we live with a possibly dominant Baltimore? Will Cliff Lee and maybe Crawford make that much of a difference for us if we get them? And wtf, somebody's gonna want AJ...

9 rbj   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:21 am

[7] Boston had an insane amount of injuries this year. I doubt that that will happen next year, and I think Theo is a decent enough GM to add good players.

Montero may be good with the bat, but how are his catching skills and game calling skills. I'd like to see him get some mentoring from Jorge -- but would Jorge like that, essentially being the DH while grooming his heir, and then keeping Frankie as BUC (with essentially a 3 catcher roster).

I'm not saying the Yankees are out of it next year, just that there is a real possibility that they will be. The past decade plus I've always assumed the Yankees would make the playoffs. I'm just not that sure for next year.

10 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:23 am

[0] ah, so it is you, Mr. Hank Waddles, who is keeping the sky from falling on us! Thank you for doing the heavy lifting, sir. The Whirled Champeen Yankees will be along shortly to relieve you of your honorable duties.
JInx shminx is right.

11 bp1   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:24 am

Hank - Pretending there are jinxes is part of the fun of being a sports fan. So while I respect your ability to shout out "He's pitching a no hitter!!", the rest of us will be sitting sitting on our hands fondling whatever objects we believe bring on the good karma.

12 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:30 am

[11] Our own hands or someone else's? I think the latter option would do more to bring on good karma...

13 RIYank   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:31 am

[9] You're right about the Sox' injuries, of course, but they have big problems to solve this off-season. Beltre and V-Mart are free agents. They will both be very expensive, and my bet is that Theo will go for the picks. They won't execute Papi's option, so they'll have to negotiate something with him, which could be painful. Papelbon is going to cost them more money. If they don't re-sign the heart of their order, who exactly is Epstein going to pick up this winter? What they need is a shortstop (unless you think Lowry is going to fill the bill).

I wonder what the Yu Darvish market is going to be like. I think I remember RAB predicting it would be cool (because scouts are saying Darvish resembles... Dice-K).

14 The Hawk   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:32 am

[6] I agree. I mean really none of it "really matters". It's entertainment, and the regular season provides plenty of diversion and interest for me. To me the game is "baseball", not "baseball season and/or post-season" ... I'm not saying the playoffs aren't more exciting or tense, or that winning it all isn't the overarching "goal", but ultimately I'm watching a series of individual games.

15 The Hawk   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:37 am

Re: superstition, I agree that it is a fun part of sports. On the other hand, saying you'll beat a team because "it's the Twins" borders on superstition itself. "Well, we will beat them 'cause we always beat them - just because!" doesn't exactly reek of objective analysis!

This Yankee team on paper is certainly better than the Twins, so we can hang our hats on that. In theory the Yanks should prevail but you know what they say about baseball ...

16 rbj   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:51 am

[13] Japanese pitchers haven't fared all that well here. They are at best a #2 or #3 starter -- competent, but no CC.

It could very well be Tampa, Toronto, NY, Baltimore, Boston at the end of next year. Or if the Yankees get Cliff Lee, it could be NY, Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Boston. Just a lot more fluid than the past few years.

17 The Hawk   ~  Oct 6, 2010 11:56 am

I think Phil Hughes had a very solid first season. That's not a bad start and I can definitely see him improving. I mean, hopefully, he does.

18 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 6, 2010 12:09 pm

On the whole superstition thing, as soon as I heard that Vin Scully gladly tells his listeners when a no-hitter is going on and doesn't worry about jinxes I stopped worrying about who said what when.

It did make me wonder why Dodger Thoughts specifically prohibits commenters from bringing it up, though.

I also have no qualms about continuing to use it offensively anytime the Yankees are being no hit, whether I believe it or not. ;)

19 Evil Empire   ~  Oct 6, 2010 12:36 pm

Alex, I think you need to become an Alabama football fan. Not only are there 3 banterers who love the Tide (myself, Bama Yankee and Ms. October), but the Alabama is the equivalent of the Yankees in football. AND think of the grief you can give Pat Jordan about the 1992 Miami game!

20 Diane Firstman   ~  Oct 6, 2010 1:40 pm

From a B-P.COM chat:
David Laurila (10:37:42 AM PT): On this date in 1945, Wrigley Field ushers refused to let a billy goat attend Game 4 of the World Series.

On this date in 2007, Joba Chamberlain lost to a hoard of angry midges in Cleveland.

The above are not related, but it does beg the question: What will we see in the 2010 postseason?

21 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 6, 2010 2:01 pm

[20] Cleveland... the Old Faithful of bad karma.

22 Just Fair   ~  Oct 6, 2010 3:25 pm

[20] Joba was simply celebrating 1969's debut of Monty Python. The ministry of the funny midges. ; (

23 Chyll Will   ~  Oct 6, 2010 3:47 pm

[22] None of his walks were funny at the time, either, even if the way Torre handled the situation was quite silly...

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver