Sunday, August 16, 2009

Party Like It's 1998

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I remember watching games during that magical summer 11 years ago, when the Yankees were a force that couldn't be stopped, not even by their own second baseman.

The greatest team of my generation was fueled by outstanding starting pitching from the likes of Andy Pettitte, David Wells and David Cone, along with the timely hitting of Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, and Tino Martinez.

During one weekend day game, Jeter lined a single up the middle to score a runner from second base. As he returned to first base, the late Bobby Murcer, the game's color commentator, made a profound comment that was lost on my spoiled 10-year old mind at the time.

He said, "You know, these are the days we'll look back on years from now and say 'Those were the good ol' days.'"

As the current Yankees continue to surge ahead of both the Red Sox and Rays in the A.L. East division race, I am beginning to think Murcer's statement holds true about the '09 Bronx Bombers, too.

I'm not suggesting the Yankees will win 114 games this year. Hell, I only gave them credit for 94 in my Spring Training prediction. But after witnessing the way in which the Yankees trounced the Red Sox in four games last weekend, you can't help but feel this team is going to do some special things.

The flight back to Massachusetts must have been a tough one for the Sox, knowing they all but lost the division race to their hated rivals after four excruciatingly tough games. They threw their best at the Yankees, and it just wasn't good enough. That's a hard pill to swallow for any team, I'd imagine, especially one with such a lineage of losing like Boston's.

The Yankees have returned to a form that gave the Nation nightmares for 86 years. A 23-6 record since the All-Star break has teams on their upcoming schedule running scared, and their arch nemesis hiding in the bushes.

Robinson Cano's game-winning single on Wednesday gave the Yankees their 11th pie-in-the-sky, walk-off win, which has accounted for more than one-fourth of their home victories this season. Dominant starting pitching from the top of their rotation and timely hitting throughout a circular lineup has this team is running away in the standings, and having a blast doing it.

So let me be the first to welcome you back to the good ol' days, Yankees fans. Now sit back and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Youkilis Just the Latest Red Sox' Clown

Stop acting surprised. We are talking about the Red Sox, aren't we?

Yes, we are. Acts of aggression and stupidity are nothing new to Beantown. So refrain from seeming shocked that one of the stars from the most classless organization in Major League Baseball would make a fool of himself, on his home field, no less.

I don't mean that Ortiz guy, either.

It seems as though since the day the Splendid Splinter bit the dust, Boston has become a city ruled not by democracy, but rather idiocracy. Kevin Youkilis is just the latest in a long-standing line of buffoons that continue to question the moral fiber of the once-omniscient Red Sox.

In case you've yet to see it, (in which case, here) during the second inning of a pivotal game between the Sox and A.L. Central division-leading Detroit Tigers, Kevin Youkilis was hit by a pitch from 20-year old phenom Rick Porcello. Granted, after seeing Miguel Cabrera leave the game after being hit on the hands by a pitch in the first inning, the second time in consecutive days, it's not so farfetched to expect some kind of retaliation from the Tigers.

But upon getting beaned, Youkilis quickly turned and sprinted toward Porcello. The rookie pitcher immediately began to backpedal, wanting no part of the charging slugger. With a swift dodge to the right, Porcello simply used Youkilis' own momentum against him and tossed him to the turf as the benches cleared and all hell broke loose at Fenway Park.

Some may argue that Youkilis' act of aggression can be seen as a good thing in Bostonian circles. They will defend Youkilis, saying he sparked the team to victory, much like captain Varitek's attack on Alex Rodriguez in July of 2004 automatically made them World Series champions. (Right, because it was the midseason brawl, not extra help Ortiz and Ramirez were allegedly receiving.) Boston writers caught lightning in a bottle once, why can't they do it again? After all, this would be the same team who found themselves waking up as self-conscious as they have since October of 2003, thanks to a swift four-game shallacking at the hands of their arch-rivals over the weekend, or "The Boston Massacre, Part III," as I prefer to call it. And sure, for a night that theory almost makes some sense, given the fact that Mike Lowell came off the bench and supplied the power for not one, but two, home runs to pace the Sox to a 7-5 victory. But anyone with any relative knowledge of what a baseball is knows that the commissioner will come down hard and fast on Youkilis, and probably before tomorrow's first pitch, scheduled at 1:35 p.m.

Boston could be without their glorified utilityman for a week, in the heat of a pennant race in which they continue to attempt to fend off the Rangers and Rays, all the while telling themselves they've got a shot at catching the Yankees for the A.L. East division crown. Yeah, way to fire up the troops, Youk. Here's to hoping you can do the same from the bench.

But why does everyone feel the need to act surprised at anything the Red Sox make news for nowadays? This is the same franchise who has celebrated the actions of Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek as leaders and champions.

Up until the New York Times' steroid allegations surrounded David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez a few weeks ago, it seemed as though Boston felt they had a moral high ground on the rest of the country, especially New York. But they don't. They never have. In fact, they had more class as an organization when they were losing all the time. Whether it be Manny Ramirez's constant disrespect for the game and his opponents, or Pedro Martinez's all-too-abrupt way of dealing with the elderly, or Youkilis' charge to the mound (or should I say Porcello's takedown), a consistent pattern of behavior has been established in Beantown.

Perhaps it comes from the heads of the organization? After all, you'd be hard-pressed to find seven consecutive seconds where either punk general manager Theo Epstein or owner John Henry aren't shooting their mouths off about the Yankees. Maybe they go out and get players who, well frankly, will embarrass the hell out of them en route to a sustained level of success.

You take the good with the bad, I suppose. I mean, playing the game the right way for 86 years wasn't going so well, so it makes a bit of sense to dirty up one of sports' most respected franchises. The Red Sox sold their soul to the devil. And in return, they were given two tainted championships and a slew of embarrassing moments, like tonight's brawl at Fenway.

Was it worth it? That might just depend on how many games they lose with Youkilis looking on from the top step of the dugout in the coming week.