A report from Yankees stadium on Sunday (and another Red Sox victory).
I love fooling Yankee fans. Nothing beats doing it over the course of a Red Sox series either. It's like the dieting commercials you see on TV-- you can eat anything you want and still lose weight! It's simple-- wear anything you want without Red Sox paraphernalia on it and cheer as loud as you want for them! It's a guaranteed good time.
On Sunday, a particularly timid and tame group of Yankee fans filed into the section in which I sat. The combination of terrible pitching and losing record was beginning to grate on them-- you could tell. The kids in front of us were bored off of their asses by the fourth-- dumping peanut shells and stabbing holes in the plater's program faces with a pencil. The fans were yelling more at Mets and Rangers fans than they were at blatant Red Sox fans walking in and out of their seats. They were like a lame duck Presidential speech or a long-winded National Anthem rendition. It was as if the fans were ready for April to end rather than looking forward to the game's conclusion.
And with good reason, I suppose. Their Yankees, as has been well documented, are miring themselves in yet another slow start. This April, however, is different for one solitary reason: suspicion. When the Mets were ready to overtake the Braves last year, there was an attitude of, "Well, their due, but I can't pick against the front runners." People knew that the right amount of pitching mismatches and lineup adjustments had been made. The Braves were rife for domination, but the "hump" is never easily overtaken.
The stadium was never abuzz-- even in the ninth when Giambi came through with a double, even when Doug Mientkiewicz hit a three run job, and even when Alex Rodriguez came up in critical situations (welcome back Little Momma!). With last year's darling of the staff pitching, the fans were listless, yet unable to boo. They were in a conundrum-- there is no one to blame (injuries being the main reason) and no one to love. No heroes, no goats.
I know their pain. Last year's end of season came at the hands of a healthy Yankee squad versus a patched-together pitching dynamic including detritus from all over (Kyle Snyder?! Starting?!). The leftovers still remaining from last year were a past of the unraveling that could have happened in two innings: Tavarez unraveled in the third (wlks and a HR) and Timlin pitched a shaky eighth: (Jeter's HR and the tying run reaching the on-deck circle). The fact that the series is 5-1 thus far rests on the shoulders of new pitchers on both sides. Last year's domination has no carryover with Diasuke Matsuzaka or Jeff Karstens; Jose Vizcaino or Hideki Okijama. I understand the injuries, and stared from the stands at a team bereft of answers.
That's the biggest fool job on the Yankees this year. The trades of Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield may have strockpiled arms, but it doesn't plug holes. The Craig Hansens and Manny DelCarmens of the world are always on the cusp of ready. The Julian Tavarez guys are always in between good stretches. The Sean ("Robin Wright") Henns are always struggling to strike out the superstars of the league. All of this on top of inefficiency an d injury. It's the "smart" plan. It's the "hope" plan. When the clutch comes calling, do you want to watch Sheffield hack at a high hard one, or do you want Melky Cabrera or a 65% Damon or a struggling Abreu? I know these questions well.
The doubts are planted, and the Stadium is full of them. Most of all, there is a lifelessness right now. Of course, when I go in May, June and onward, the attitude will change. I'm sure the standings will change. But, more importantly, will the suspicion? The general rumblings are unsure-- as shaky as a Chase Wright fastball over the heart of the plate. The fans are occupied and languid for now. Will they come alive? Right now, apparently, not enough to worry about two guys in regular clothes celebrating right in front of them as Manny rounded the bases or as Alex Cora slid into third safely. Apparently, not enough to stick around while Giambi stood on second with his tenth multi-hit game or as Papelbon stood ready to deliver. Apparently not enough to hide their sneaking suspicions.
All this, and no one even noticed the shit-eating grin on my face. They were fooled, I suppose.