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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Inside the Lines: Bronx Buzzkill

By Ryan Maus
Staff Writer

Friday, October 13, 2006

The mood in Twins Territory has been a somber one of late, which is understandable considering the team’s disappointing performance during last week’s short-lived playoff run. But before you allow the early coming of winter to induce a bout of seasonal affective disorder, consider this: The New York Yankees, owners of the “greatest lineup ever assembled” and an obscene $200 million payroll, lasted exactly as long as the Twins during baseball’s post-season.

Which is to say, not very long at all.

As sad as witnessing Minnesota’s quick playoff exit made me, watching George Steinbrenner’s collection of overpriced mercenaries get trounced by the Tigers (the same Tigers enjoying their first winning season in 13 years) in three straight games was the best day-after-loss pick-me-up a baseball fan could hope for.

You know that feeling when the jerk that cut you off in traffic gets nailed for speeding around the next bend? Or when the annoying know-it-all in biology class just gets utterly shot down by the professor? Take that sense of sweet vindication and multiply it by 10 – that’s how great it is to watch the Yankees go down in flames in October.

Mike Royko, the late Chicago newspaper columnist, was right on the money when he wrote, “Hating the Yankees is as American as pizza pie, unwed mothers and cheating on your income tax.” The past six seasons, none of which resulted in World Series victories for baseball’s “Evil Empire,” have given Yankee-haters such as myself plenty of ammunition, and there was no shortage of shots fired after this fall’s inexplicable playoff collapse. The day after the Bronx Bombers bombed, national media outlets were flooded with stories detailing the potential fallout from New York’s most recent playoff choke job. Did anyone care that the Tigers and Athletics had suddenly become co-favorites to win the World Series? Not really, but everybody wanted to know how the Boss (Steinbrenner) would vent his rage after his all-stars were embarrassed by a team that lost 119 games just three years ago.

Steinbrenner’s anger-induced decisions might go a long way towards ensuring Yankee flops in subsequent Octobers. He nearly fired manager Joe Torre this week, one of the greatest managers in baseball history.

Alex Rodriguez, one of the most talented players ever, is likely on his way out of town following a “down” year in which he had 35 homers and 121 RBI. After spending nearly $1 billion on player salaries since 2000, New York has exactly as many championships as the Royals to show for it.

Just like the American Express ads have been telling us for years, there are some things money can’t buy, and apparently playoff success is one of them. Unless the Yankees make some serious changes before next year (i.e. revamping a rotation that had an average age of 34 in 2006) there’s a good chance they’ll flop again.

Not to give credence to all old truisms (many of which aren’t always accurate), but the 2006 Yankees proved that certain adages like “good pitching always beats good hitting” and “great individuals don’t always make great teams” are just as valid as they have always been. It proves that, even in a world where “might” usually makes “right” and the little guy is slowly being forced out of the picture, there are some arenas in which David still triumphs over Goliath.

And if you watched how the Tigers celebrated their recent series win, you could have sworn they had just taken down the entire Philistine army.

It is for this reason that I revel in the ignominy of every Yankees loss. I want to believe that being the best shouldn’t be predicated on playing in the country’s largest metropolitan area, posting the best attendance figures, or having the most lucrative television contract. Instead, I want to believe it’s about cultivating a talented core of players, a solid pitching staff and a little bit of luck. Luck may not have been on Minnesota’s side this October, but at least it chose to abandon the Yankees as well.

And for me, that fact alone will make this winter seem a lot less dreary.

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