I find it’s particularly easy at times to get lost in the vastness of baseball. The regular season goes on seemingly forever; all the while, it supplements our daily routine in a way no other sport is capable. As the months go by, injuries, hot streaks, heart breaking extra-inning losses and walk off wins all begin to blur together forcing profound moments into a largely irrelevant haze. Then the season ends in rather abrupt (albeit occasionally dramatic) fashion leaving us wondering how those 162 games of baseball disappeared so seamlessly. While our friends in Boston are desperately grasping for insight into how their season went astray, Yankee fans have fortunately been thrown into the frantic, more-often-than-not-heart-wrenching, yet-totally-welcomed plight that is the playoffs. If ever there was a time for us to take off our zen-baseball cap and not murmur the cheap cliché of “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”, it’d certainly be now.
October has arrived; and we watch. We watch with bated breath and fickle temper as each game promises an opportunity to feel anything on the emotional spectrum. Ironically, it would appear that rage and euphoria walk a perilously tight rope — just imagine if Curtis Granderson hadn’t caught that ball in the top of the first inning last night. Justin Verlander evidently won the heart of every non-Yankee entity in the universe with his eight innings of 11 strikeout, four earned-run ball. Unlikely heroes such as Ivan Nova and A.J. Burnett grossly exceeded our dubious expectations while trusted stalwart, CC Sabathia, labored much to our dismay. Through the first four games against the Detroit Tigers, we’ve witnessed the Yankees outscore their opponent 26-14 only to find the series tied in the boxscore with the team’s fate hinging on Thursday night.
With the final game of the ALDS looming in the coming hours, we as fans, idle in anticipation and anxiety. If you’re like me, you’re probably also exhausted. Going to bed by midnight only to hear the brain-piercing buzz of an alarm clock at 5:30 in the morning only helps replicate a zombie like affect. You might be nervous too. Ivan Nova will carry the team’s fate on his young shoulders. The second postseason game of his career as a starter will undoubtedly be the most important game of his career up-to-date. Then there’s the weariness. Will Doug Fister who struck out six, and at one point, retired 10 in a row show up? Or will the guy who was charged with an 11.57 ERA thanks to an abysmal sixth inning resume where he left off?
Those of us here at TYA have made it our passion to relentlessly dive into the numbers. It’s that rich empirical evidence that gives us comfort, realistic expectations, and if we’re lucky, a relatively objective means of assessment. Much to our chagrin, these stats don’t translate real comfortably into a five game set as the one consistent element of the playoffs is the chaotic nature of it. I want to believe that the Yankees team will win because the season’s performance suggests that outcome. It is my hope (as I am sure it is yours), that the vibrant atmosphere of Yankee Stadium will help our guys elevate to the occasion. It is my expecation that the better team over the course of 162 games will act accordingly for one more. Unfortunately, those who preach the unpredictability of baseball are in their glory as reality suggests the outcome of a singular occurrence is a situation that our data is largely unprepared for.
What I do know for sure though is that I’m not ready to be done with baseball as a fan. I haven’t yet resigned to watching another team win the World Series. I’m not prepared for offseason acquisitions just quite yet, nor do I have any desire to contemplate offseason analysis at this juncture. And so, I’ll be locked into the game on Thursday evening. I don’t know what will happen, and I can’t really make an unbiased prediction. I just know that I’m hopeful; and more than anything, I want to feel this self-induced tension deep in the depths of my stomach all over again next week.
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