April 4, 2006

Yankees Make Life a Little More Magical

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Fielding Mellish said, “it’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

And that’s important to remember, because sometimes I feel like being a Yankee fan is like being in the movie Bananas. Some people think the Yankees are a travesty and a mockery because of their deep pockets and the way they bring unbalance to baseball. Some people think the Yankees must be ridiculous because they can’t win every game every year with all the money they throw around for players and coaches.

Meanwhile, I think, “thank goodness for the Yankees,” because my childhood wouldn’t have been as enjoyable as it was without the team. I might even have the Yankees to thank for deciding to give sports journalism a try, because the Yankee teams of the mid-to-late nineties were so awesome, I wanted to be involved in sports some way too (note: by the time I made that decision, I knew the whole professional athlete thing wasn’t going to work out).

I think about the miracle that was the 1996 season. I think about the unchallenged dominance that was the 1998 season (well, maybe the Indians sort of challenged them). I think about the brilliance of the 1999 season, and the glory of 2000. I think about the thrill of 2001 and then the shock of Rivera blowing Game 7. I think about the FAILURE of 2002, the disappointment of 2003 (we’re definitely out of my childhood now, but that’s not important) and then the absolutely awful, gut-wrenching, earth-shattering blowup that was 2004 (Per Ostman is smiling somewhere).

I still remember calling up my Dad after Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS and saying, “if any team can blow this 3-0 lead, it’s this one.” I then remember watching it happen over the course of the week. That sucked (Per must be laughing by now).

And after reading all of that, you know why I love the Yankees. I don’t like the Yankees because I always want to win or I want to be a part of something “evil” (which I don’t believe I am). I like the Yankees because of the emotions they bring to my life – whatever those emotions may be – that makes it all worthwhile.

Forget childhood – the Yankees have made my life better. I know I’ll always root for them 10, 20 or even 85 years down the road, at which point the Red Sox will have just won another championship.

See? It’s the ability to make jokes like that one that make me happy to be a Yankee fan.

So keeping everything in mind – the wins and losses, the ups and downs – I have a prediction to make. I think the Yankees can finally win it all this year after five seasons of torturous pressure concluded by disappointment.

Why do I believe this? It is because the Yankee philosophy has changed. They’re being wise with their money, not just using their money. They’ve got the right people in the right places. And they’re … the Yankees.

Let’s start with the most troubled spot of all for the team over the last half-decade: pitching. The Yankees starters were woefully decimated by injuries last year. If that happens again – which is about as likely as Bonds not having done steroids – the Yankees have the same nine starters/relievers as they had at the end of last year to help them out. The team has depth, and that will be very important, especially since these players, when not starting, could be used as a bridge to the late relievers and the recently dubbed “best player of his era” by the legendary Peter Gammons – Mariano Rivera.

As for the starters themselves, they will do well, as I think they’re being underrated. Shawn Chacon and Chien-Ming Wang are solid. I’m surprised most experts are saying the team’s pitching hinges on the team’s second starter, Mike Mussina. It doesn’t. Mussina will probably get hurt, and someone will have to fill in for him. What Chacon and Wang do will be key for the Yankees, almost as important as what Randy Johnson does. He will dominate this year, as The Big Unit is looking in fine form. I think he may do better than last year, but not by a lot. His age is catching up with him (he only throws about 97mph, if that, these days), and he’s not even the best pitcher in the league.

The offense of this team is what everyone is excited about. The Yankees are much more balanced with Damon at the top of the order. It makes such a difference shifting everyone down one spot because, when you look at the types of hitters that are in this lineup, that’s where everyone belongs – one spot down from where they were last season. The team isn’t amazingly balanced, but it will score a lot of runs, no doubt. I think there might be a bit too much hype about this offense, but we’ll see.

So overall, this team is solid. The defense isn’t great, but it’s better. The team chemistry – an underrated aspect of baseball success – is not great but it’s better. The team has three former Managers of the Year in its coaching staff, plus Mattingly keeping tabs on everyone’s swing and Lee Mazzilli returns as bench coach. And Bernie’s back. So this team has to win.

You might think everything I just said is garbage. You might think I’m generally right.

Well, I say to you both, “that’s why I love the Yankees.”

Josh Perlin is an Assistant Sports Editor. My Pitch will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Josh Perlin