OK, as an A’s fan I now have to swallow the same advice I’ve been
offering to grieving White Sox fans for the last couple of days:
this year is just the first of many steps in what ought to be a
great decade for both teams, and whatever gets accomplished, it
will be valuable experience. As much as "wait til next year"
smacks of Cubbish hopelessness, in the case of two well-run organizations,
it is a motto of hope and not despair. I can gnash my teeth about sun
fields produced by media moguls, but the Yankees won, and that’s life.
Equally impressive is the victory of the Mets over the Giants. Despite
an ungodly amount of wailing over Bobby Valentine’s decision to start
Bobby Jones in game four despite his inappropriate "fifth
starter" label, and the odd absence of any complaints about Dusty
Baker’s decision to start and lose with genuine sixth starter Mark Gardner
(or to use Kirk Rueter in relief before game four), the Mets won
handily. As some work Michael Wolverton is doing for ESPN.com will point
out, some of it was luck, and as we all had to witness, some of it was
Dusty Baker, but this is the postseason, and one man’s luck is another
man’s sense of destiny. We’ll leave that to biased and unbiased
This brings me to my point of what, for me, is a tremendous source of
amusement: the perils, foibles and outright misinterpretations of what
the victories of the Mets and Yankees represent. For most of the preseason
and throughout the year, the major media have been proclaiming the Mets and
Yankees as the easy favorites in their divisions, and while both teams have
made it this far, neither team has gotten to where it is because of the
seamless success of their preseason plans. This year’s Yankees team has a
lot more in common with the 1973 Tigers than it does with the 1996 Yankees.
For most of the team, this could well be their last chance at a ring, and
while nobody will weep if this is Clay Bellinger‘s last dance in the
spotlight, there is something compelling about seeing a great team play out
the string. It seems strange and inappropriate to consider the Yankees the
favorites for anything at this point: they’ve overcome the collapse of
major portions of their pitching staff and the meltdowns of so many
important hitters that labels like "favorites" and
"underdogs" should have no meaning.
Similarly, so much has gone wrong for the Mets over the course of the past
season that I’d hardly call their path to the NLCS the cakewalk so many
predicted during spring training. Indeed, despite watching every one of
the veteran hitters they picked up over the winter fall well short of
expectations, which was expected by people like me, they exceeded
expectations of what they would accomplish as a team, at least by people like
me. Does that make them favorites and top dogs, or scrappy battling underdogs?
Labels like that are inappropriate as well as overly simplistic. If you ask
me, it’s part of a compelling case for why Bobby Valentine needs to get a lot
more credit for his managing, but at the very least it makes them a good team.
So now we’ve got the looming danger of a subway series and all of the parochial
nonsense that it would represent, because love it or hate it or both, there is
no provincially self-obsessed burg in our great country as knotted up in itself
as New York. But I’d rather not lose what I think is compelling about having
the Yankees and Mets make it this far, and which might get lost in the frenzy
to cover the local angle, which is that both teams deserve credit for how
they’ve managed to live up to expectations and surprise us at the same time.
Chris Kahrl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.