Usually, I try not to write while upset. I make a habit of setting the post aside, and not pressing the "publish" button until I've had some time to think about it calmly. I didn't do that the other day when ranting about Scott Raab's douchetastic playoff blog post at Esquire.
Nonetheless, the only words from that last post that I regret writing were the final three: stay classy, Cleveland. It was a jab directed at the author of the Esquire blog (proclaimed by Esquire to be an Indians fan, and self-identified in the blog entry I quoted as a Clevelander) that maligned the whole city for the words of one of its supporters. There was no good reason to drag the city of Cleveland into the conversation--for all I know, they're the nicest people on earth--and I apologize for doing so.
As for the rest: look, I understand that many reasonable people have objections to patriotic displays of any sort. They consider flag-waving to be jingoistic and anti-intellectual; some object to anything that puts the words "God" and "America" in the same sentence; many also consider that patriotic displays are an overt endorsement of the current administration's actions in Iraq and elsewhere. There's also the phenomenon of Yankee Stadium security not letting attendees leave their seats during God Bless America (although I've never experienced this phenomenon myself, it's been reported so widely that I believe it to be true), which is a practice that I can't defend, in any way.
While I understand and respect those objections, I'll admit that I like the God Bless America break. Everywhere else in American public life, it feels like every effort is being made to make us forget that there is a war going on, and that Americans are killing and dying on our behalf. I like that when you go to Yankee Stadium, the war is acknowledged, and they take a moment to pay tribute. Having watched a few games with servicemen, they don't seem to consider the "patriotic ritual" cynical or dishonest. It also isn't a bit of window dressing for the playoffs or national broadcasts--they consistently do this every home game of the season.
As much as I respect the political reasons to oppose the seventh inning ritual at Yankee Stadium, the idea that it's some sort of hardship--a premeditated hardship--to visiting pitchers is bunk. Even though Tynan started singing GBA at Yankee Stadium in 2001, the whining didn't start until 2003, when the Yanks scored three runs against the Twins in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 of the Division Series. In that game, we're supposed to believe that the long layoff caused Brad Radke to hit Nick Johnson with a pitch to lead off the inning. After that, the Yanks got a couple of singles and an error against LaTroy Hawkins--also, somehow, Dr. Tynan's fault, even though Hawkins was in the bullpen during the seventh inning stretch.
Now, no one had complained about the deleterious effect of GBA prior to 2003, because the Yanks didn't score any bottom-of-the-seventh runs in 2001 and 2002. And the cause has been resurrected as an excuse whenever the Yankees score a run in the bottom of the seventh of a playoff game. In Cleveland's Game 4 win this year, the Yanks scored in the seventh--an Alex Rodriguez homer, not like that ever happens--and on cue, Mr. Raab started crying about how it's a horrifying shame that the Yankees are allowed to compromise the game by putting on the GBA show, yadda yadda yadda.
But is there really any negative effect? I sat down with BB-Reference and did some back-of-the-envelope calculations (literally--they're scribbled on my Time Warner cable bill). Since 2001, the Yankees have scored 140 runs in 283 innings at home--0.495 runs per inning. In the 7th inning of those 32 games, guess how many runs the Yankees have scored? Fifteen (or 0.469 per inning)--a hair less than you'd expect from the overall numbers. It's a small sample, but you'd think that we'd see some run-scoring boost from the supposedly intentional, pitcher-freezing delay.
Unless, of course, the delay is irrelevant. As I mentioned before, baseball isn't a game of fixed time limits. It's not like the pitchers take the field every 10 minutes on the dot, and a six minute delay will throw off that rhythm. In an AL ballpark, there's nothing for the pitcher to do but sit from the time he ends an inning until he's called upon to warm up again. That could be five minutes, or it could be twenty--it all depends on the team's bats and there's just no telling. So it kind of makes sense that pitchers would be no more or less effective after listening to three minutes of Ronan Tynan than they would in any other inning. They're just that resilient.
A number of the respondents to my rant, both here and elsewhere, called me a sore loser. Mind you, I've stated (before any of this) that Cleveland was the superior team, and that the midges weren't any kind of excuse for losing a playoff game. While conspiracy theories abound on this last point, I think they're BS. It's one of those things that happens--like rain and bad umpiring--and you just have to deal with it.
But if I'm a sore loser for mentioning the bugs in passing, how is it not poor sportsmanship to whine about GBA at Yankee Stadium, when there's no indication that it negatively impacts play on the field? How sporting is it to imply that GBA, as sung by Tynan, is gamesmanship rather than a sincere tribute?
So, now that that is out of the way, how's the whole rooting-for-the-Red-Sox thing going? I'll admit, it's pretty tough. As a Dominican, I find it easy to pull for David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez--just like in 2004, that's just a brutal hill to get over in the lineup--but it's a little harder to wish good things for Chipmunk Face Beckett and ol' 38 Pitches.com. It'll probably be easier to cheer Matsuzaka on the mound on Monday, when the series resumes.
Buried news item from Friday: the Baltimore Orioles, in a typical bit of crackerjack management, fired pitching coach Leo Mazzone. I guess it must have been awkward for O's manager Dave Trembley to have a guy on his coaching staff who came to Baltimore specifically to work with Trembley's predecessor, Sam Perlozzo. Regardless of the circumstances--and Leo's poor results with the O's pitching staff--you have to think that Mazzone might factor in to all of the managerial intrigue surrounding the Yanks this week. Mazzone was coveted for the job as Joe Torre's pitching coach when he left the Braves two years ago, and could still fit in there (no offense to Ron Guidry) if the Yanks decide they still want to retain Torre's services. If the Yankees wanted to hire Mattingly as the new manager, the decision might be easier if the Yanks had a veteran pitching coach to pair with the newby manager, such as Mazzone. Any way you cut it, I'd be surprised if Mazzone isn't getting a lot of phone calls from the 813 area code this week.