Monday, July 17, 2006

Suh-weet Suh-weep

The forecast called for scorching 95 degree heat in New Jersey, which means it would only be hotter in the Bronx. And in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium, it would surely feel like 110. But would that stop five guys from witnessing the final of three games against the defending World Champions? Pshaw!

Armed with no outside beverages (we're stoopid), we braved the 4 train all the way from Union Square up to 161st Street. Mind you, this is a decent ride for a Saturday afternoon game; however, there is no express service heading up on Sundays, leaving us to stop every eight or so blocks along the way. It's not ideal, but we were, how can you say, occupied. How so? Well, to retain a bit of subtlety, let's just say that butter impeccably absorbs THC.

You'd think that with this ingestion, our reactions would be slowed and we'd stumble into the game 20 minutes late. This is what happens normally with this crew, and it bothers the crap out of me; with Jon and Andy, I don't think I've ever watched the first pitch. Yesterday, however, we walked up the ramp just as the National Anthem began. That in itself was exciting.

We were quickly deflated, however, as J-Wriggidy put men on second and third before recording an out. At this point, my brother turned to me and quipped, “doesn't look like Wright's gonna make five [innings].” Somehow, I refrained from cursing Wright, and it paid off, as he got out of the inning with minimal damage. A pitchers' duel this would not be.

Now we're in the bottom of the first, and we get to Yankees Game Pet Peeve No. 2: people never sit in their assigned seats in the bleachers. Ever. Ours were all the way at the end of a row in Section 49, right next to the black seats. Seeing that three of our five seats were occupied when we arrived, the consensus was to take the six seats immediately accessible, and wait for the fallout. And, of course, a representative of the 5-oh kindly asked us to move seconds after Jeter parked the tying run. Literally four groups of people had to move because of this. And, illogically, the group sitting in our seats got mad, because that meant they had to shoo the people sitting in their seats. Steinbrenner will plop $200 million on payroll, but he can't write a check for more ushers.

As my ass hit the hot metal of the bleacher, I heard a mighty crack. Looking at the plate, I saw Alex Rodriguez take his first steps towards first base. My head turned to the right, futilely searching for a white ball on a bright day amidst a sea of white shirts. No dice at first, though I got a great view of it landing in the visitors bullpen. Back to the basepaths, I noticed someone running in front of A-Rod; during the whole musical chairs session, I had missed the entirety of Giambi's at bat.

There's not really much to report from then on, other than a few jams that got the White Sox contingency all riled up. Every time a guy got on base, they'd be waving their blanket and starting Sox chants. At first, the boos drowned them out. Then we all realized it wasn't worth it; these chumps were about to be swept.

Other randomness: Phillips hit streak in my presence continues: he had a sweet ass double and was driven in by Cairo, who was driven in by a Bubba Crosby double. It was nice to see some production from the black hole of our lineup.

After the last out was recorded, all the signs at the stadium lit up, commemorating Mariano Rivera's 400th career save. This I did not know before the game, nor during. And I'm quite glad. There is nothing more insidious than hearing Michael Kay chirp about something like that all game. And, because Mo had a rare 6-out save, he would have had even more time in which to discuss this feat. Congrats obviously go to Mo, who is undoubtedly the greatest closer in the history of the game.

Is anyone else of the opinion that Carlos Pena should get a stab at being the backup first baseman? Phillips is okay, I guess; he rakes, but he's inconsistent and can't even keep his OBP at .300. Pena, on the other hand, has a demonstrated ability to get on base, has a decent glove, and could provide a better bat off the bench. I'm not saying it's the be all, end all answer, but I think it's at least worth a week-long experiment.

More great news came during our ride through New Jersey: Oakland had won again. This is why we don't get overexcited when the Red Sox take a four game lead in the division. Because what's that lead now? A half game? And their second “ace” pitcher got rocked again over the weekend, adding to his ML leading home runs allowed total. As bad as things may have appeared ten days ago, they're looking bright now.

I don't think I've ever extolled the virtues of a 162-game season like this year and last. You simply can't write off a team the caliber of the Yankees on the basis of even a half season. Granted, there is plenty of concern to go around, and there is no guarantee that the pitching will hold up, just as there's no guarantee on the returns of Sheffield and Matsui. But, as we've all come to learn, baseball is a game not conducive to guarantees.