Well, it certainly is amazing how much can change since the last time I trumpeted the demise of the Pinstripes of Doom.
Baseball has hit the dog days of summer, and the second half of the season. Where you separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, and the creamy nougat center from the evil dark chocolate shell. It’s a time of reflection and a time of decision. For some teams and some men, a time of action.
Yes, we’ve come a long way since the 9 - 11 Yankees I spoke of in my previous baseball love letter. (An apropos record, and one that I didn’t notice until well after the initial post was thrown out to the world.)
As it turned out, The Hated Yankees did not die. In fact, they don’t even seem to have the sniffles, except for perhaps the nagging soreness of a cumulative 4.97 ERA. They remind me, in many ways, of the 2001 St. Louis Rams, a team that was more than willing to give up three touchdowns a game, so long as they were scoring four.
A rumbling juggernaut of run production. A fan-friendly behemoth of Clash of the Titans proportions.
First place in the American League.
More powerful than a locomotive.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
And more than willing to give a redheaded-stepchild like Boston a swift and terrible nutkicking the likes of which haven’t been seen since Eric Cartman Rochambeaued with Kenny.
And I hate them.
It’s in my blood and veins. It’s kept me cool during the hot Phoenician summers, when even the Diamondbacks had a chance of being something other than a punchline. It’s kept me warm during the cool month of October, when in years past the Cardinals have done little else than book tee times.
And this year, it will keep me on an even keel. A pleasant 72 degree thermostat, baby.
Because I want a Cardinals / Yankees showdown so badly, I can taste it.
If it’s true that most men lead lives of quiet desperation, there are at least a handful of men that live that desperation as loudly as possible.
George Steinbrenner has always been one of the latter.
Yes, I hate the Yankees. Not for their successes, mind you – a good player is gracious even in defeat, and Lord knows I’ve had plenty of opportunities to taste that defeat.
I hate them because of the way they get to that success. I hate them for because, to me, the New York Yankees in my head isn’t a team – it’s a man, baby. He’s an Italian man at a dinner table, scarfing up robust free agents like so much gnocci, greedily breaking open any concept of parity and drinking it down like chambord. This man is relentless in his hunger – any player that could potentially turn around a franchise is scooped up, and shoveled into his gaping maw, never to return. In my mind’s eye, he looks remarkably like the overweight man in “Monty Python & The Meaning of Life.”
Even now, Steinbrenner has his eyes on Arizona’s Randy Johnson. And if it were up to Costanza’s boss, they’d be measuring his 6’8" frame for pinstripes even as we speak. It’s only because the Diamondbacks don’t want to sacrifice a boatload of ticket receipts that he hasn’t been shipped off for two prospects, a draft pick and a free ticket to a taping of “TRL.”
And somewhere the greedy Italian man licks his lips, thinking of adding another 40 year-old strikeout king to its evil fold.
Don’t think for a second I’m not looking forward to the St. Louis Cardinals serving him a “wafeer-theen meent” come October.
On top of this particular pile of linguini is the fact that ESPN’s analysts have finally started to give respect to the Cards as a legitimate playoff contender. Sure, they bit back the urge to stop fellating New York for a few hard-fought months, but as the holders of the best record in baseball, the Cards have earned the right to the top slot of the ESPN Power Rankings.
They’re the real-deal-Holyfield. They got some key off-season prospects and a couple cast-offs from other teams. They got rid of some dead wood (coughcoughJ.D.Drew) and they’ve stayed healthy.
And they’re humble. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, and they damn sure don’t expect the Boys in Red to make a showing in October. Analysts have been calling their rise to glory a fluke. An aberration that will correct itself in time.
But they’re humble. And they know how to do their jobs, because they’ve seen what the future brings.
The Cardinals know what defeat looks like, tastes like. They know the future isn’t always rosy and bright, and sometimes there’s no joy in Mudville. They know this better than any other team out there.
(With the possible exception of the Florida Marlins, who should end each and every World Series victory with a speech about “rebuilding.”)
St. Louis has tasted the bile of defeat for many years, and now it’s looking good for that taste to suddenly turn sweet. And I’ll be disappointed if we get to the show, and discover that the Yankees haven’t been able to join them.
Because to quote Ric Flair, if you want to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man. And the Yankees are the only man I want to face, baby.
Nobody wants to get to the final reel to face Tommy Morrison. You want Apollo Creed. You want Clubber Lang. You might even want Ivan Drago, who also wouldn’t mind a call back from his agent, by the way.
So let’s make it happen. No collapsing, no whining, no secondary injuries. Hell, bring Randy “The Dove-Killer of Alcatraz” Johnson into your cold, evil clutches. I want the best team you can bring, because I suspect it won’t be enough.
I’m going to end with this, even though doing so makes my left eye twitch involuntarily:
Good luck, Yankees. And may the best men win.