Friday, September 19, 2008

Weird times in the Bronx

The Yankees season is basically devoid of meaningful competitive storylines these days, replaced by coldly manufactured ones like Derek Jeter having the most hits in Yankee Stadium history and Billy Connors piling the most dead hookers and buffalo wings under the right-field bleachers.

And with so little in the balance -- the Yanks can be officially eliminated from playoff contention as early as this weekend -- it wouldn't have been surprising for the bottom to fall out as players began turning their attention elsewhere.

With that said, you have to hand it to the veterans that they're making the last homestand at the Stadium a winning one. After taking two of three from the Rays last weekend, they won their first four-game series of the season by taking three from the White Sox. On Thursday, Mike Mussina built upon a season in which he is undoubtable his team's MVP, winning his 18th game. He will have to go 2-for-2 down the stretch to reach elusive No. 20.

It seems as if even Robinson Cano has temporarily put aside his plan to bang every co-ed in America, picking up five hits over the past two nights. On a side note, is it too obvious that the Yanks will deal Cano to the Dodgers this offseason, reuniting the prodigal son with Larry Bowa and Joe Torre? I mean, that almost makes too much sense right? I don't think it's necessarily a good idea to deal Cano when his value is through the floor, but knowing the Dodgers, they'd probably pay the cost of '05-'06 Cano thinking the coaching staff can turn him around. This is the next Rod Carew after all. He converted, by the way.

Thursday's victory clinched a winning season for these Yankees -- their 15th straight such campaign -- and with nine games remaining it's very possible they'll win between 87-89 games. Though hardly a consolation for a dark October, it should be recognized that their record shows that this hasn't been such a terrible season ... at least technically. Just terrible by Yankees standards, standards are ridiculously high. Let me ask you this: If Chien-Ming Wang had made 34 starts instead of 15, are the Yanks in a three-team dogfight in the AL East right now? Yeah, that's what I thought.

But sadly, Wang didn't make those starts and the Yanks have no part in that aforementioned dog race. It's a reality that's still hard to swallow for prideful Bombers fans like me and you. I made my final visit to Yankee Stadium on Monday night -- my reflections on that will come shortly -- and it was weird to watch the mighty Yanks actually playing out the string. As we walked through that stuffy old tunnel-bridge for the last time my buddy Howie, a season-ticket holder and eternal Bombers pessimist, remarked that it had been years since he had seen the Yankees play for nothing. It was 1993 to be exact, a time when I was still hitting wiffle balls in my front yard pretending I was hitting cleanup behind Don Mattingly.

The Yanks were a team on the rise then, with players like Jeter, Pettitte, Williams and Rivera ready to return the franchise to glory. Whether the likes of Chamberlain, Hughes and Jackson can restore this club once again is the new question.

It could be 1993 all over again for the Yankees. It could just as easily be 1965. Thomas Earl Petty famously once said that waiting was the hardest part. He's absolutely right.

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