At the Finish Line...Thoughts Before the Last Baseball Game(s) of 2009
In the grand scheme of things, baseball is a kid's game.
It makes heroes out of ordinary men. It makes celebrities out of lowlifes like Jose Canseco and John Rocker.
It turns cities against each other—sometimes, even boroughs of the same city. Its victories and defeats are celebrated and suffered with pure emotion.
It can make an 18-year-old kid lean out of his 14th-floor dormitory window at one in the morning and joyfully scream "Boston Sucks!" at the top of his lungs out into Washington Square Park. It compels the people down below to join in when they hear it.
It can drive men crazy with rage and grief. It leads to fists hammering through walls, and beer bottles shattering against sidewalks. It leads to fights, and tears, and jail time, and sleeplessness, and seasonal depression.
It is entirely beyond our control. It is a game of situation, of inaction, of waiting for that big moment to arrive and hoping our favorite player is at bat when it does.
It is the moment of shock, and the grimace and the bad joke we have to make after our favorite player strikes out looking in that big moment, or grounds into a rally-killing double play, or pops up to the third-baseman.
It is watching a big-game pitcher scream at his manager in the late innings, begging to be allowed to clean up his own mess.
It is watching that manager swallow his fist whole while the opponent plows through two middle-relievers over the course of the next five minutes.
It is the moments spent idly wondering, will five years and $95 million be enough to sign John Lackey in December? (OK...that one might only be for Yankee fans)
* * * * *
And on off-days, it is about waiting for the next game.
Wondering how much Joe Girardi really learned from Joe Torre while the two of them were in the same uniform.
Knowing that if Mariano Rivera has to get six outs tonight, he will.
Hoping we're able to think about Rivera in late innings...even if thinking about Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson isn't such an awful alternative.
Knowing that Andy Pettitte would lie about how he's feeling to take the ball in a game this big, and loving him for it the way we loved David Cone for it when that was his job.
Believing that Alex Rodriguez will smell blood in the water at some point in this game—and not tense up wondering if it's his own.
Knowing for sure that Derek Jeter will not kill another rally this postseason.
Hoping Johnny Damon has one last 10-pitch at-bat to grind. Hoping Hideki Matsui has one more big swing in his beaten-up lower body.
Believing that if we could Pedro* Cliff Lee in Game Five, we can certainly do it against the original Pedro.
Trusting that, if it comes down to it, C.C. Sabathia will find a way to get the job done tomorrow night if his teammates can't do it tonight.
And knowing that, win or lose, there will be no sleep after Game Six.
I love this game.
(* Pedro—v., to outlast a starting pitcher and hit him hard when he gets tired.)
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